All eyes were on first-time starting quarterback Andy Roesch as the Ball State Cardinals rolled into Toledo to face the Rockets in a homecoming showdown.
Roesch put up what head coach Bill Lynch called "pretty good" numbers, but the Cardinals were unable to stop the Rockets' high-powered offense in a 37-17 loss.
"He played exactly the way we expected him to," Lynch said. "But in a game like that statistics don't mean too much."
Roesch had a hand in each of Ball state's two touchdowns, throwing for one and rushing for the other. In all, the junior was 18 of 32 passing for 182 yards and one interception.
"That was his first ball game and I thought he handled himself well," Toledo head coach Tom Amstutz said. "He had a lot of poise. I thought he was a good football player."
Roesch, who was playing only a couple of hours from his home town of Galion, Ohio, said he felt comfortable on the field.
"I wasn't that nervous," Roesch said. "I was nervous on the first snap, but I am always nervous on the first snap."
The interception came as the Cardinals were driving with a chance to tie late in the second quarter, but Lynch said the pick wasn't necessarily a turning point.
"At that point it was still 14-7 and it was just the first half. We just had to start stopping them," Lynch said.
Both Lynch and Roesch credited Toledo cornerback Brandon Hefflin for making a great read on that play.
"(The receiver) had separation, and I thought I could get it in there," Roesch said. "But (Hefflin) made a good play."
The crucial drive in the first half was Toledo's last, Lynch said. With 44 seconds left in the second quarter, quarterback Brian Jones completed a four-yard pass to Andrew Clarke for a touchdown, giving the the Rockets a 21-7 halftime lead.
Another problem Roesch faced throughout the game was the blitzing Toledo defense. Lynch said Roesch played pretty well for being "on his back the whole game."
Roesch was sacked three times in the game and was hit many more times.
"The sacks were just coverage sacks, and maybe me trying to hold on too long," Roesch said.
Roesch was simply outplayed, though, by Toledo's Jones. Jones threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't throw an incompletion until 1:09 left in the first half.
"I said on the headset during the game that this quarterback was in total control of this football game," Lynch said.
The Toledo defense bent, but it did not break throughout most of the game. Ball State reached Toledo territory on each of its first six possessions, but the Cardinals only came away with two touchdowns and one field goal.
Ball State tailback Marcus Merriweather was limited to 76 yards on 25 carries, his lowest output of the season.
"He's a guy who has gained over 100 yards 14 or 15 times in his career," Amstutz said. "So obviously we wanted to contain him. And I felt like we did that."
With the win, Toledo improved its home winning streak to a school record-tying 17 in a row. That streak is good enough for third in the nation behind only Nebraska (23) and Miami (20).