TOLEDO — Mike Christensen’s Wing T offense isn’t built for the situation Toledo found itself in at the end of the first half of its 2B matchup against Raymond-South Bend.
Already up 14-0, the Riverhawks stopped the Ravens, and got the ball back after a punt with 58 seconds left on the clock, back at their own 28-yard line. Sneaks and sweeps weren’t going to work.
On the plus side, the Riverhawks had quarterback Wyatt Nef.
“I knew especially if we could get him out in space, we’d have an opportunity,” Christensen said.
That’s exactly what happened. Nef got 16 yards on first down, then found Carson Olmstead in one-on-one coverage for a 34-yard gain to get the ball into RSB territory with 27 seconds left. One more run set Toledo up at the Raven 22 with six seconds and one last play left.
So of course, Christensen did the obvious thing one would do with a first-year quarterback running a run-heavy system: he drew up a completely new play on the spot.
The Riverhawks lined up with Olmstead in the slot and senior Aiden Umbriaco on the boundary. The plan was for the two to cross right before the goal line, and for Nef to hit Olmstead in the corner. Instead, the whole RSB defense went that way, and Umbriaco found himself in single coverage in the middle of the end zone for an easy throw.
“Props to Aiden, he ran under it, he made a great catch in the end zone,” Nef said. “First touchdown for him. Probably the most excited I was this whole game was when he caught that.”
That was pretty much the way the whole day went for Toledo, as Nef led a Riverhawk romp, 39-8.
“He’s doing what he’s been doing all season, and that’s leading our team,” Christensen said. “When he has a little bit of space, he can be electric, and we try to get him in space as much as we can.”
Nef started his game with another big throw. On Toledo’s first drive of the evening, the Riverhawks faced fourth-and-14 from the RSB 21, and for the first time, Christensen let his quarterback air it out. The senior found Olmstead over the top in the end zone, putting the hosts on the board and starting the blowout.
Nef added two more touchdowns on the ground — a 53-yard scamper in the second quarter and a 6-yard dive to the pylon in the third — to complete his night with four total. He went for 131 yards on the ground, while throwing for 62 yards on 3-for-4 throwing.
“His ability to throw the ball and think on the fly, he’s worked on a lot,” Christensen said. “That only comes with game reps, and I think he’s going to get better with each and every game.”
Olmstead caught two of those passes for 55 yards, in just his second game back after taking two years away from football.
“He works hard, he’s been lifting hard, he’s gotten thick and strong,” Christensen said. “He’s blocking well for us, and that’s a key to play tight end for us. You don’t get a lot of opportunities to catch, but he’s making the most of those opportunities.”
But aside from the air game, Toledo’s bread and butter — the rushing attack — worked nearly to perfection. The Riverhawks averaged an even 9 yards per carry in the first three and a half quarters before the backups went in with a 39-0 lead.
Nef, Justin Filla and Geoffrey Glass all ran the ball 10 times. Glass fracked up 83 yards and a touchdown, while Filla swept and quick-pitched his way to 54. In the second half, junior Zane Raney came in and bulldozed his way to 44 yards and a touchdown on four carries.
As a team, Toledo racked up 341 yards on the ground, to RSB’s 172. The Riverhawks only ran five plays in the first quarter, and 17 in the first half, but those were way more than enough to get the job done.
Fifty-seven of those yards for the Ravens came in their final drive against Toledo’s JV defense, when RSB scored its only points of the game.
Well, that was when the Ravens scored their only points of the game that counted. All the way back on its second drive, the RSB quarterback faked the handoff, rolled to the right, and sprinted down the sideline for a 42-yard touchdown. But just as the Toledo defense bit the fake, so too did one of the referees, and an inadvertent whistle brought the play all the way back, to the frustration of the visiting sideline.
“I feel bad for them, because I think that changed the complexion of the first half for sure,” Christensen said. “That easily could’ve been a 14-8 game at halftime if they score that touchdown and we don’t get that last touchdown. That’s a different game.”
As it was, the Ravens continued their drive, but turned it over on downs at Toledo’s 23-yard line. RSB wouldn’t rip off a play for more than 20 yards again until late in the third quarter, and wouldn’t get into the red zone until its final drive.
“It was a little rough in the first half in terms of defensive execution, we gave up a lot of rushing yards that we didn’t need to,” Christensen said.”That’s on mental mistakes, and that’s frustrating. But we shored it up at halftime, and I think our guys did a much better job in the second half of following our game plan.”
Toledo (2-0) will hit the road for a long trip next week, taking on Stevenson as it enters the meat of its C2BL schedule.