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...
MOBILE, Ala. — Bruce Gradkowski and the Toledo offense ran, passed and scored almost at will. David Thomas and the defense shut down a potent UTEP offense and even scored once, too.
And another GMAC Bowl resulted in a big MAC victory.
Gradkowski threw five touchdown passes, Trinity Dawson ran for 132 yards and Thomas returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown, leading the Rockets to a 45-13 victory over the Miners on Wednesday night.
“We just came and played the best game we could ever play,” Thomas said. “It was kind of like everything we did was right.”
The Miners weren’t arguing that point after getting victimized by a dominant all-around performance and extending their string of postseason futility one more year.
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. The former Washington State coach was fired from Alabama in May 2003 after a drunken night at a strip club.
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.
“They’re one of the few teams we’ve played the last couple of years that beat us and we didn’t beat ourselves,” Price said. “They just beat us. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.”
But, he pledged, “We’re going to be back in a bowl game next year. We’re going to win a bowl game wherever we’re going and break another drought that UTEP has had for a while.”
Toledo (9-3) had lost its past two bowl games but left little doubt in this one, running the Mid-American Conference’s record to 5-0 in the Mobile bowl.
“Wow, that felt good,” Toledo coach Tom Amstutz said.
Mike Alston contributed two big tackles for the Rockets 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 set to mount a rally.
Gradkowski completed 18 of 32 passes for 298 yards with TDs to five different receivers.
• USC quarterback Matt Leinart had his eligibility temporarily revoked after appearing in a promotional segment on ESPN earlier this month, a violation of an NCAA rule. Leinart had been barred by USC from participating in media activities until after Christmas.
• Northwestern suspended defensive tackle Trevor Schultz, cornerback Deante Battle and receiver Kim Thompson for the Sun Bowl against No. 17 UCLA. Schultz and Battle were suspended for academic reasons, Thompson for violating a rule.
• Wisconsin running back Booker Stanley was suspended from the team after his arrest and charges of choking a woman in his apartment.
• Former New Mexico State coach Tony Samuel was hired to take over at Southeast Missouri State.