COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Buckeyes' 90 years of in-state domination almost ended on a single play.
John Simon pressured backup Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens, forcing an incompletion on fourth down with 48 seconds left, to preserve No. 15 Ohio State's 27-22 victory over the Rockets on Saturday.
The Rockets (1-1) drove from their own 28 and were 17 yards away from becoming the first in-state team to beat the Buckeyes since 1921. Ohio State is 43-0-1 against its closest neighbors since that long ago 7-6 setback to Oberlin.
Toledo led 15-7 after a quarter and was on top 22-21 before Carlos Hyde went 3 yards for the winning points late in the third quarter.
The Buckeyes (2-0) only had to run out the clock on their last possession, but freshman Rod Smith lost a fumble to give the Rockets a final shot.
Chris Fields returned a punt 69 yards and Hyde ran for two more scores for the Buckeyes, still reeling from NCAA suspensions which held out seven top players.
Down 21-15 at the half, the Rockets took the second-half kickoff and, five plays later, took a one-point lead after Adonis Thomas ran 4 yards on fourth and 1.
After a punt, the Rockets drove to the Ohio State 33 but a fumbled snap ended any chance of a 50-yard field goal.
The Buckeyes promptly took the ball back 55 yards. The key was a 36-yard pass from Joe Bauserman to Devin Smith, and Hyde capped the march with the TD run. A failed 2-point conversion pass kept Ohio State up by five points.
Toledo had four more chances. The first was snuffed by Ohio State's defense, which forced the Rockets to fumble. After three punts, the Buckeyes got the ball with 5:45 left at their own 25. A 31-yard completion from Bauserman to Devin Smith gave the Buckeyes a first down at the Toledo 33.
But on first down, Rod Smith fumbled after a 5-yard gain and the Rockets' Johnathan Lamb fell on the loose ball.
Suddenly, the game was in doubt and Ohio State's in-state winning streak was in jeopardy.
The Rockets had a hand in their own undoing, with 14 penalties for 102 yards, one missed field goal and a blown hold on another one. The Buckeyes were called for just two penalties for 13 yards.
Down 7-0, the Rockets scored on consecutive possessions to knock the Buckeyes back on their heels.
First, Austin Dantin, who was 14 of 26 for 155 yards and one score, hit Eric Page for a 6-yard touchdown. Page then took a direct snap in a spread set and passed to Hank Keighley for the two-point conversion. The scoring drive was a short one, set up when Kishon Wilcher blocked an Ohio State punt and T.J. Fatinikun rumbled 23 yards to the Ohio State 1 with it.
The touchdown was the first points Toledo had scored against its big, downstate neighbors. The Rockets had been steamrolled 87-0 in two previous losses in 1998 and 2009.
After forcing a Buckeyes punt, the Rockets came right down and did it again. This time Owens tossed a 66-yard touchdown pass to Page, who had beaten Ohio State's C.J. Barnett deep. The Rockets used the same scattered alignment on the second extra-point, but Page eventually called for a kick and Ryan Casano hurried into place to convert it for a stunning 15-7 lead.
But the Buckeyes rebounded. They'd scored the first time they touched the ball on offense, with Bauserman, who was 16 of 30 for 189 yards in a surprising solo performance, hitting his favorite target, tight end Jake Stoneburner, on a 26-yard scoring strike.
Hyde burst through a hole off left tackle and angled to the sideline on a 36-yard touchdown run, the point-after kick narrowing the deficit to 15-14.
Toledo, hampered by nine first-half penalties, then committed a critical mistake.
Vince Penza's punt rolled dead at the Ohio State 17 with a minute left, but the Rockets were offside on the kick. The ball was brought back and Penza kicked again — this time a line drive directly to a waiting Fields who was nearly tripped but regained his footing and raced to the end zone for a 69-yard touchdown.
It was enough to calm the nerves of a crowd of 105,106 not accustomed to watching other teams from within the state hang with their Buckeyes.
At least until the final minutes, when Toledo made a mad dash down the field before Simon got in Owens' face.