Toledo rips UTEP in GMAC Bowl

Thursday, December 22, 2005

MOBILE, Ala. -- Bruce Gradkowski and the Toledo Rockets came up with one big play after another. UTEP came up short in the postseason again.

Gradkowski threw five touchdown passes and Trinity Dawson rushed for 132 yards, leading the Rockets to a 45-13 victory over the Miners on Wednesday night in the GMAC Bowl.

But it wasn't just the offense that came up big for Toledo (9-3), which had lost its last two bowl games. David Thomas returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown and Mike Alston had two big tackles to end the first half when UTEP was threatening to cut into a 28-13 deficit.

It was the last time the Miners (8-4) appeared likely to mount a rally.

UTEP ended its season with a defeat for the 19th consecutive year and dropped to 0-4 in bowls since 1967, despite making big strides in two years under Mike Price. Price was fired from Alabama in May 2003 after an evening cavorting with strippers an hour down the road in Pensacola, Fla.

He has led UTEP to back-to-back postseason games for the first time in 50 years, but the Miners finished the season with three losses in a row.

The MAC continues to dominate the GMAC Bowl, moving to 5-0 with yet another potent offense showcasing itself.

Gradkowski completed 18-of-32 passes for 298 yards with TDs to five different receivers. He was intercepted twice, but it hardly mattered. The senior threw five TD passes in a game for the first time this season and third time in his career.

The Rockets also harried UTEP's prolific passer, Jordan Palmer, into an off-night. He was just 14-of-33 for 163 yards with an interception and sat out several series in the second half.

Toledo, meanwhile, was 3-of-3 on fourth-down conversions, and had three players catch passes of 30-plus yards.

Gradkowski was chosen as the game's MVP.

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