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Battle of I-75: 25 miles of hate

The Battle of I-75 trophy
Drake Harlett
The Battle of I-75 trophy

Interstate 75, 1,786 miles long and runs through six different states and starts in Sault Ste. Marie in Northern Michigan and finishes down south in Palmetto West Miami, Florida. 

But somewhere in that 1,786 miles of the open road is a small stretch of 25 miles in Northwest Ohio of, well how do I put this lightly? 

Pure and utter hatred. 

That 25-mile stretch run is between Bowling Green State University and The University of Toledo.  

These two universities hate each other just like any other good rivalry in college sports does. 

The battle between these two schools each and every year is to see who owns I-75 and to see who will hoist the Peace Pipe Trophy which is now called the Battle Of I-75 Trophy. 

Bowling Green and Toledo first met on the gridiron on Oct. 3, 1919 on the campus of BGSU where the Rockets defeated the Falcons 6-0. 

Since that day, it instilled one of the best and most unique rivalries in all of college sports. 

Along with every rivalry brings a good old-fashioned fight and in 1935 these two schools did just that.

After Toledo manhandled Bowling Green 63-0, a full-on brawl between the fans and players broke out on the field which resulted in the series being suspended for 13 years until 1948. 

The story tells that at halftime of the basketball game in 1948, two players from each university smoked out of a six-foot-long peace pipe which resulted in the Peace Pipe Trophy, which is now rewarded to the winner of the football game each year. 

It was then that Bowling Green and Toledo began to play regularly every year. 

In 1951, the hatred grew even more when yet another fight broke out between the fans and players after Toledo just edged out Bowling Green 12-6. 

Starting in 1955 however, Bowling Green went on a 12-game win streak that lasted until 1966, which to this day is the longest in the series. 

10 of those wins came at the helm of legendary Bowling Green head coach Doyt Perry, which many Falcon fans know from the football stadium being named after him.  

Perry is said to have claimed that it’s “the most important game on our schedule”

He could not be more right. 

“I still to this day watch the rivalry every year, it’s a great rivalry,” said former BG head coach Urban Meyer, who was the coach at Bowling Green for two years in 2001 and 2002 

Throughout the years we’ve seen some incredible games and in 2010, it was the first time ever that this game was played in prime time. 

2010 was also the year Toledo started a winning streak of their own as on that cold October night Toledo would begin a 9-game win streak that would last until 2018. 

The game in 2011 saw the end of the Peace Pipe Trophy, which had run its course in the long series as the trophy was discontinued as a result of a new trophy, The Battle Of I-75 Trophy. 

That nine-game win streak by Toledo leads us to the most current era in Bowling Green Football, the Scot Loeffler era. 

Loeffler in his first year coaching the Falcons in 2019 snapped the nine-game winning streak as the Falcons defeated the Rockets 20-7 in front of the Falcon faithful.

He brought joy and new life to Bowling Green in this series. Also in 2019, that was the last time the series was played on a Saturday as since then they’ve been played on midweek MACtion. 

Toledo took the next two in 2020 and 2021, which brings us to last season.

Let’s just say it was an absolute classic between these two schools.

Some regard it as the best game in the series, and if anyone knows how to light the fire on Toledo, it’s Scot Loeffler. 

Bowling Green crashed the party in Toledo as the Rockets may have still been celebrating clinching the MAC West division just a week prior and it led to Bowling Green getting in front to an early 21-0 lead. 

But any good team finds ways to come back and Toledo did just that. The Rockets kept chipping away at the Bowling Green lead until eventually, Toledo took the lead with just under a minute left in the game. 

It led Bowling Green to have a drive they will never forget.  

Bowling Green sat at the Toledo 42-yard line down three with 28 seconds to go, where former Falcon quarterback Matt McDonald connected with current running back Ta’ron Keith for the go-ahead touchdown with nine seconds left with a snowfall confetti falling down. The Falcons won 42-35. 

“The snow starting to pour down, down by one point with 40-something seconds left, those are the types of scenarios you dream about as a kid,” said McDonald. “Throwing that game-winning touchdown pass with 20 seconds left and bringing back that trophy on Toledo’s home turf is one of the greatest memories of my life and something I will never forget. I was honored to be a part of breaking that streak of losing on Toledo’s home turf and bringing back the trophy to the people of Bowling Green.” 

It marked the first time Bowling Green won in Toledo since 2008. 

So it’s safe to say you get the best fight every year from these two schools when they face off, as 28 of the 87 matchups have been separated by one score or less as the all-time series is nearly neck and neck as Toledo leads 42-41-4. 

Tuesday night marks Loeffler’s participation in five editions of the rivalry, and he knows how much this game means to everyone in both communities.

“It’s 25 minutes up the road. We recruit the same kids. It’s just a great, great game and just like I said, I appreciate the history with it and I think there’s a difference between one game I think with wins and losses. Obviously whenever it’s that close and that divided in terms of Toledo’s won a heck of a lot of games and Bowling Green’s won a heck of a lot of these games. So it’s just a great rivalry, plain and simple.” 

Sure, there are the national rivalries like Ohio State-Michigan, North Carolina-Duke, Auburn-Alabama every year. Just like the one in NW Ohio, all of these rivalries are separated by a short distance.

Bowling Green and Toledo? They have one of the shortest distances between the two schools in Division I. 

Both communities rally and support this game every year like it’s the biggest game of them all, because ultimately it’s like Doyt Perry said

“It’s always each school’s biggest game every year.”

Rivalries are meant to have a rich history, iconic plays, fun traditions, and pure hatred, and that’s what this rivalry is all about.

25 miles apart from each other and there’s not an ounce of love in any mile in that stretch on I-75. 

For more stories related to BGSU Athletics, follow Falcon Media Sports Network on X (@bg_fmsn).

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