The season theme of “half played games” continued this weekend for Buffalo and the result was an exciting, and excruciating, 48-38 loss to Kent State. The loss drops Buffalo to 2-4 on the season and two games back in the Mid-American-Conference East division.
Per usual, Dustin Crum was the secret to Kent’s success. He and Dante Cephus picked the Bulls defense apart. Cephus had three touchdowns and Crum threw for 407 yards.
Kent got up early on Buffalo, and poured on the points. A stifling defense and offense that could not be stopped put the flashes up 21-0 in the first quarter. Buffalo found their footing to “stop the bleeding” but could not get closer in the second.
The game went to the half with Kent up 31-10 and looking like they were just toying with the Bulls.
UB made a game of it in the third quarter. Buffalo struck quickly on the four scoring drives where the longest lasted 4 1/2 minutes. Kevin Marks Jr. ran for a 16-yard score and Kyle Vantrease threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jake Molinich. Matt Myers ran into the end zone from the 4 and Dylan McDuffie ran it in from 10 yards to give Buffalo a 38-34 lead.
Just like that the Bulls looked like the unstoppable team. But Kent recovered and scored twice in the fourth quarter, while the Bulls managed two good drives that ended in missed field goals.
What’s this mean for the Bulls season?
In the short term it probably means that winning the East is not going to happen. Being two games behind Kent, and losing the head to head means that in six conference games UB is going to need to win three more than Kent.
Kent still plays Akron and Ohio, two struggling teams. UB needs to run the table, and get help. To this point in the season the Bulls have not played a consistent four quarters against anyone but Wagner.
But this season is not totally lost. UB has to win four games to make it to a Bowl game. They have played two pretty good teams in Western Michigan and Kent and played them both in a way where the score at the end of the game was respectable.
If they can take their best ball, and do it consistently there are easily four wins left on their schedule. But there is no room for error.
If you’re Maurice Linguist you have to beat Akron, Ohio, and Bowling Green. None of these are “give me” games for Buffalo, but they are winnable. And they are the Bulls next three games. By week nine UB could be sitting at 5-4.
That means you’re left having to upset Miami, Ball State, or NIU in order to get that sixth win.
In the long term, bowling this year does not mean a lot regarding the health of the program. This season being a rebuilding year is not an indictment of the coaching staff, taking over a team with no coaches in May, dealing with the portal exits, and expecting no fall off is unrealistic.