Touchdowns on four of five drives to end the first half propelled the Buffalo Bulls to their first win since September tonight in a midweek home game against the Akron Zips. Joe Licata played one of his best games of the season, but everyone on the offense stepped up as seven different receivers caught a pass and backup QB Tony Daniel ran for a 21-yard score on the way to a 27-10 halftime lead and 55-24 final victory.
Buffalo came into tonight's matchup clinging to the slimmest hope of bowl eligibility, but I don't think you'll find many in the program thinking much of that possibility. More importantly and realistically, the Bulls looked to earn their first victory since September and their first under Coach Wood.
Coming off loss to the Ohio Bobcats six days ago that was ugly and frankly, confusing, UB hosted another team looking to rebound from a midseason losing streak in the Akron Zips. Akron was a chic pick at the beginning of the year to challenge for the apparently wide-open MAC East, but has fallen off in October with consecutive losses to Ohio, Ball State, and Bowling Green.
The Zips have enjoyed a degree of offensive depth at the skill positions this year that I thought might challenge the Bulls defense, but didn't get a chance to use them until well into the second quarter as the Bulls stepped up in a big way early to force three-and-outs in four of five first-half drives, including the first three times Akron touched the ball.
Well, that's not true. UB didn't start the game very well [understatement], throwing a pick-six on their second snap, and then fumbling the ball away seven snaps later. After that though, it was all UB. Buffalo scored on four of the next five drives, including a classic two-minute drill to end the half that was helped by a targeting penalty and ejection from All-MAC defensive lineman Jatavius Brown. At the half Taylor had 125 rushing yards and Licata two passing TDs as Alex Wood stuck to a balanced gameplan throughout.
Short of those early turnovers in the first three minutes, Buffalo absolutely controlled the first half, to the tune of 21 minutes of possession while Akron got just four yards on the ground. The Zips punched back working into the win out of the break, putting together a 16-play drive over 9:33 to get to 27-17. Just maybe, Akron could work back into the game.
Fortunately, UB's offense responded, scoring in just four plays thanks to a big Akron personal foul on third down before a great catch from Jamarl Eiland and an easy pitch-and-catch to Jacob Martinez. When Akron fumbled on their first ensuing snap, their defense lost Devin Campbell and UB had two touchdowns in 22 seconds - I believe a UB Football record, but I am waiting for confirmation.
After that, it was all just a matter of time. UB got another touchdown to get to 48-17 and the game was never in doubt again despite twelve and a half minutes to go.
The 48 points for UB are the most since 56 in the the 2012 game against Morgan State, and most ever against a MAC opponent. Presumably most against FBS competition, but I can't find it. It was lost on the way to to three more, but with his first touchdown Joe Licata passed Drew Willy for the most all-time by a Bull, and Anthone Taylor rushed his way into the fifth-best single season in school history.
On the day, Licata put together a final line of 193 yards, 4 TDs, on 16 of 21 attempts and just that lone interception. Taylor led the rushing attack with 178 yards on 32 carries, and we saw happy returns of both Jordan Johnson (104 yards) and Devin Campbell (2 TDs) on offense.
On defense, Tedroy Lynch had a forced and recovered fumble, while Courtney Lester had a very near-interception on Akron's first pass that was broken up and only went for a pass defended. Adam Redden led the Bulls with 9tackles, adding a sack, forced fumble, and fumble recovery all on one late-fourth-quarter play, and Jarrett Franklin had three tackles for loss.
The only blemishes after the early series came on special teams: UB botched two punts, falling on one quickly, but letting the first bounce high off a shoulder pad. I cannot remember a football team at any level that has missed so many punts as this one, this year. Today, neither was lost, and it wasn't an issue, but, sheesh.
Patrick Clarke missed an extra point.
UB's will remain at home next week, hosting the Kent State Golden Flashes on Wednesday night in the UB Stadium finale for the 2014 season. The Bulls will spend Thanksgiving on the road, traveling to UMass on the 28th to close out the season.