Published On: Wed, Dec 21st, 2022

Toledo Clips Liberty to Capture 2022 RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl

 In the 2022 RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl, Toledo outlasted Liberty by a final score of 21-19, capturing the Rockets’ 12th bowl win in program history.

The win marked a full-circle moment for Toledo head coach Jason Candle. Candle’s first victory came in the Boca Raton Bowl in 2015 while serving as interim head coach at the time, when the Rockets defeated Temple, 32-17. That game also marked the last bowl win for Toledo prior to tonight.

“First of all, hats off to Liberty,” Candle said. “That’s a quality opponent and a very talented football team. I know what their head coach is going through here the last few weeks getting that team prepared and ready to play. They played a very competitive football game from start to finish. We’re super proud of our seniors. We’re proud of their perseverance not only tonight but throughout the course of the season. I thought the game tonight kind of mimicked our season in the sense that we had some ups and we had some downs, but at the end of the day, we found a way. I think in life, finding a way is really the key to getting it done, getting over the hump, and getting the ultimate goal. This group I think is the first group since 2001 that’s won a Bowl game and a MAC championship in the same season, and I’m proud of that. What this group was able to accomplish, they took the words off the wall and turned them into reality. That’s tough to do sometimes.”

On a rainy December night in Boca Raton, Liberty drove down the field on its second possession and punched it in with a nine-yard Shedro Louis rushing touchdown to nab a 7-0 lead. Toledo went into the locker room trailing 7-3, then built a double-digit lead with a pair of touchdowns and another field goal to go ahead 21-7.

The Rockets set the tone right away in the second half by going on a 13-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a four-yard touchdown pass from Dequan Finn to Lenny Kuhl to nab a 10-7 lead. Finn was named the Offensive MVP, going 16-for-24 with 133 rushing yards, one touchdown through the air, and one on the ground.

Only two plays into the next Liberty drive, the Toledo defense forced a key turner by way of a Nate Givhan strip sack, and the fumble was recovered by Jamal Hines. Toledo settled for a field goal from Thomas Cluckey, who went 2-for-2 on the evening. Givhan earned Defensive MVP honors, while Cluckey was named Special Teams MVP.

Toledo used another marathon drive, this one in the start of the fourth quarter that spanned 16 plays, went 80 yards and chewed up seven minutes. Finn took it himself from one yard out to give Toledo a 19-7 lead, and a two-point conversion that wound up looming large put the Rockets up 14.

Liberty did not go away quietly and made things interesting in the end. With 7:24 remaining in the game, Kaidon Salter connected with Treon Sibley on a 29-yard touchdown to trim the lead to 21-13, yet the extra point was failed to keep it as an eight-point game.

Liberty got the ball back and reached into its bag of tricks for a big 67-yard touchdown on a double pass from wide receiver CJ Daniels to tight end Bentley Hanshaw. On the ensuing two-point attempt that would’ve tied the game, Salter’s pass was incomplete in the right corner of the end zone.

Toledo was able to run out the clock with several key runs from Jacquez Stuart, who broke the century mark, finishing with 111 rushing yards on 23 attempts. On the final drive, Stuart racked up 53 rushing yards to ice the RoofClaim.Com Boca Raton Bowl win for the Rockets.

Toledo outgained Liberty in the total yards category, 356-253, while having a 173-102 edge in rushing yards. The Rockets also had a massive edge in time of possession, controlling the ball for 40:03 compared to the Flames’ mark of 19:57. Salter led the Flames’ rushing attack with 63 yards on the ground.

“I want to start with giving credit to Coach Candle and his team,” said Josh Aldridge, Liberty interim head coach. “They had a great game plan, and they played really hard. I had a lot of respect for them going in and still have a lot of respect for them. I also want to give thanks to our administration for giving me this opportunity to stay through this Bowl game and help lead our football team. They have supported us all four years I’ve been here in the right way. Tonight, we just made too many mistakes to win. You look up and we only ran 41 plays on offense, and that’s partly because of not getting off the field on defense and some things that we were doing on offense. Defensively, I thought we played good enough to win. But I think the difference in the game were the third downs down the stretch. We should have gotten off the field. We were getting takeoffs in the backfield. They were falling forward a little bit on us and we were losing our leverage in the back end some.”

Toledo rounds out its season at 9-5 while Liberty concludes the campaign at 8-5. This was the ninth annual Boca Raton Bowl, which has been played since 2014.

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