Sluggish, slow, and out of sync, the Buffalo Bulls were beyond lucky to be down just 9-7 at the half to Florida Atlantic. The second half wasn't heads and shoulders better, but between a team used to the Florida heat and one from the northern edge of the country, it was UB who wore down their opponents en route to a 33-15 win in Boca Raton.
That's probably unfair. The Buffalo defense won this game almost singlehandedly, scoring 23 points on three touchdowns and a safety, handing the offense points off yet another turnover, and capitalizing on first-time starter Jason Driskel, pressed into action by Jaquez Johnson's ankle injury.
The Bulls offense only getting a field goal out of Ryan Williamson's fumble return to the 10 is the other story of the day, though. Unimaginative and ineffective all afternoon, UB didn't put together a drive of more than five plays until midway through the fourth quarter. (They did score one touchdown of their own on a quick drive spurred by a big catch from Malcolm Robinson and a run from Jordan Johnson.)
The third quarter was the difference maker, when the defense on FAU's five drives returned a fumble to the 10, returned an interception to the house, forced the Owls into a three-and-out, got a safety, and held the hosts to a four-play drive.
FAU's first play of the fourth was a 54-yard touchdown, but the damage had been done and Buffalo still led 26-15. UB built a long drive on the run game, and when Adam Mitcheson missed a 35-yard field goal, the defense simply scored again, this time on a Brandon Crawford scoop and score.
The ugly first-half deficit came entirely off Joe Licata mistakes; first an intentional grounding call in the endzone where the senior seemed to flush himself into pressure instead of stepping up into the pocket, and then an interception over the middle where he locked into his crossing receiver and never saw the undercutting linebacker. FAU would score five plays later, and were only held to nine points thanks to two fourth-down stops, an interception, and Travis Pitzonka's 60-yard fumble recovery that gave Buffalo their first points late in the half.
On the day, Buffalo's defense generated four sacks on top of everything else. Licata was not sacked, but also did not throw a touchdown for just the third time in his career. Anthone Taylor finished with 113 yards and Jordan Johnson 66 and a touchdown, but even that overstates the role of the offense in this one.
UB returns home next Saturday to host Nevada. The Wolfpack have beaten an FCS team before two tough games against Arizona and Texas A&M, but managed to put up good points against both the Wildcats and the Aggies.