It wasn't quite the beginning the No. 19 Toledo Rockets expected -- but it didn't much matter in the end.
Quarterback Phillip Ely overcame three-first half interceptions and played a near-perfect second half as the Rockets rallied from an 18-point halftime deficit to win 51-35. Ely finished 26-of-47 with 355 yards and five touchdowns.
Mistakes plagued the Rockets in the first half. Outside of scoring drives, their drives ended on three interceptions, one fumble, two failed fourth-and-shorts and a punt in the first half. Toledo went into halftime trailing 28-10.
The deficit didn't last long.
Over the next 20 minutes, Toledo was nearly unstoppable. The defense limited UMass to 21 yards on its first six drives in the second half, while the Rockets' offense recorded 38 unanswered points by scoring on six straight possessions. Toledo outscored UMass 41-7 in the second half.
With the win, Toledo improves to 7-0 (4-0 MAC) while UMass drops to 1-6 (0-3).
What the win means for Toledo: This continues to be the Rockets' best start to the season in 18 years. They haven't always won pretty -- or started pretty -- but they always find a way to make adjustments and snag the win. This victory was important because Toledo really must stay perfect to earn a spot in one of the New Year's Six. The College Football Playoff Committee will choose the Group of 5 team with the highest ranking and, right now, only Memphis appears to have the edge over Toledo.
What the loss wins for UMass: What else is new? UMass is now 0-10 all-time against AP-ranked opponents, and all but one of those losses came by double digits. UMass is only playing for respect at this point, as even winning out wouldn't make it a lock for a bowl game. This program hung tough in the first half, so it simply has to build off that and prepare for next week's opponent in Ball State. Maybe next year, Minutemen ...
Player of the game: Ely. Maybe it seems counter-intuitive to give this honor to a player who tossed three picks. But Ely is the reason this offense rallied. He threw three interceptions, but he also tossed a career-high five touchdowns. He struggled at first, but he rebounded. That's the mark of a good quarterback -- and he deserves credit.
Unsung hero: Toledo linebacker Ja'Wuan Woodley. UMass was just a yard away from a touchdown on the final play of the first half, when Woodley intercepted a crucial pass. If the Minutemen scored, the UMass lead would've increased to 35-10 -- a markedly harder deficit to overcome. Instead, Woodley intercepted it, ran back 80-plus yards before running out of steam and gave Toledo a crucial pick-me-up right before halftime.
The game turned when ...: Woodley's interception started turning the momentum, but the game really started to turn to open the second half. When Toledo forced a three-and-out and responded with a 10-play, 70-yard touchdown drive -- that's when you knew these Rockets weren't going down without a fight. That set the tone for the rest of the game.