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Buffalo Bulls 41, Massachusetts Minutemen 21: Instant Reactions from the Season Finale

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UB football closed out their disappointing season with a dominant 41-21 road win over UMass.

As UB began their second drive of the second half, UMass had as much momentum as they'd enjoyed all day. The Minutemen had just scored on a 50-yard wildcat play and brought themselves within 20-7.

If you felt any whiff of concern, though, junior quarterback Joe Licata did what he did all day: hit Devon Hughes for 28 yards on 4th-and-4 before the senior hauled in his second touchdown strike of the day to once again give UN a 20-point lead. With the toss Licata put more distance between himself and Drew Willy on the UB single-season record book, and continued the Buffalo momentum from the first half.

UB led at the break 13-0 after absolutely owning the time of possession and using Anthone Taylor in vintage Bo Oliver style (40 Carries or Bust!). After the first few minutes of the second half, it was more of the same on the way to a very dominant 41-21 win. Ignoring for the moment the missed opportunities this season, UB has definitely finished this year on an uptick.

The story of today was the defense, who put together without a doubt their best game since Norfolk State. Sure, UMass was without Blake Frohnapfel and lost Jean Siffrin midway through the first half, but Buffalo hasn't played many teams strong on defense this year regardless of who they have. UMass only managed a shade over 5 yards per snap, with a ton of fluff coming after the game was no longer in doubt.

In fact, the Minutemen's half-opening touchdown was only the second play of 20+ yards against the UB defense since Quinn went away. That says something. UB also got to Whipple for the whole game, to the tune of 5 sacks. Lee Skinner on his own had three, the most by a Bull since a fellow named Khalil Mack did it against Miami last year.

On the other side of the ball, everything was clicking for the visitors, especially after a scoreless first quarter. Joe Licata threw 4  touchdown passes in all, and Taylor went bananas on the ground with all his opportunities, rushing for 237 yards, including the Blue and White's fifth and sixth touchdowns to cap the rout. Devon Hughes and Ron Willoughby nearly went for 100 yards receiving each and combined for three touchdowns, while Jacob Martinez brought in the other.

The offense was particularly effective on third and fourth downs. With eight minutes left in the game and everything all but over, the Bulls were 7-14 on third downs and 2-2 on fourth, having five of their biggest plays with their backs against the wall:

  • The first scoring drive, which ate up 99 yards on 17 plays, saw UB convert three third downs
  • The second strike to Hughes came on third down after a 28-yard conversion on 4th and 4
There's really not a whole lot to say about the specifics of the game, which was pretty much all good for UB. Even Taylor's 76-yard touchdown run late in the game to put UB over 40 points felt like a fait accompli.

In my mind, the most positive result from today is that a bunch of the big plays came from player who will return to Amherst next fall. On offense, only Hughes of the skill players who made noise today won't be back. The defense is losing more playmakers, but a number are coming back: Okezie Alozie had 6 tackles and a sack, Jarrett Franklin 7 tackles, and Brandon Crawford and Nick Gilbo also were big up front. It's never an exact parallel, nor is it quite as promising as two years ago, but there is a bit of 2012 in the way the season ended this year

Patrick Clarke missed a field goal and an extra point.

UB's season is now over, and we'll all look forward immediately to the coaching search, with a less immediate eye on the recruiting class and the beginning of the 2015 season.

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Most importantly, a big thank you to the seniors, who were robbed of a final home game and stuck with it through a tumultuous final year to end their UB careers. Four (or five) years is a long stretch of time, and we're glad you spent it in Buffalo.