Tyree Jackson has arrived.
The defense has arrived.
Credit the redshirt freshman quarterback and the UB defense in today's 23-20 win over 3-0 Army. Without them, UB isn't within 10 points of the Black Knights, let alone walking off the field with their first win after an Adam Mitcheson field goal in overtime.
Against a team that scored 66 points last week, the defense held the Black Knights to only 10 points in the first half despite spending 18 minutes on the field and got needed stops in the second half to buy time for the young signal caller to engineer his coming-out party with two fourth-quarter touchdown drives and another in overtime.
When it appeared the Bulls would fall one fourth-down stand short of pulling off the come-from-behind win as Army marched down the field following Jackson's game-tying touchdown, kicker Blake Wilson missed a 34-yard attempt with eight seconds to play. Army's starting kicker was injured on the opening kickoff, but Wilson was 2-2 on attempts before missing both at the end of regulation and on a long attempt to open overtime.
The offense was only effective in the fourth quarter, the only successful first-half momentum killed by a holding penalty by Tyler O'Henly. UB got six thanks to an Army fumble and short field out of the half, and the defense stiffened just enough against Army's inexorable run attack to give the out-of-sync offense a chance late in the fourth. But it was enough for a signature performance from Jackson to lead Buffalo to victory.
The Black Knights repeatedly gashed the Bulls for big gains on third- and fourth-and-shorts through three quarters, but opted to punt in their own end with a 20-13 lead in the fourth quarter, and Jackson led a 13-play drive featuring multiple completions to Mason Schreck to tie the game after UB trailed 20-6 after a failed fourth-down attempt at the beginning of the fourth.
Jackson had already shown improvement from the Nevada game, and finished 20-31 for 178 yards, a passing touchdown, and two on the ground. A pair of long attempts to Malcolm Robinson went for near-misses in the third quarter could have shifted the game earlier, but in general there were more short and intermediate routes for the redshirt freshman than we saw against Nevada. Johnathan Hawkins was perhaps more impressive in the run game than Jordan Johnson -- really only one long Hawkins run separated the two -- but it feels like neither back gets enough snaps to get into a rhythm, and at times there wasn't much in the way of lead blocking for either.
The final totals are yardage and time of possession differentials of 444-265 and 36:24-23:36 in Army's favor, but a 23-20 point differential in Buffalo's. We simply can't say enough about UB's persistence to claw back into it after the lopsided first half, especially from a defense that had every right to be gassed and fade away against an inexorable running attack.
The Bulls travel to Boston College next week to face the Eagles. We'll say more about that in time. Right now, we celebrate.