Bulls Rip Rams, 31-0, in Opener as Defense Posts Shutout
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BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo football program was expected to be a quick-strike offense under new head coach Jeff Quinn's wide-open fast-breaking attack.
In the final few minutes of the first half against visiting Rhode Island, that offense was on full display as the Bulls turned a close game into a comfortable halftime lead and went on to defeat the Rams, 31-0 before 16,273 fans on a perfect September evening.
Buffalo led just 10-0 late in the first half when the Bulls' defense came up with the play that ignited the team and the UB Stadium faithful.
It took just one play for the Bulls to take advantage of the momentum as quarterback Jerry Davis floated a perfect pass to a streaking Marcus Rivers for a 38-yard score. Rivers finished the game with career-highs in both receptions (10) and yards (155) in a breakout performance.
The UB defense then stuffed the Rams again, and Terrell Jackson returned a punt 17 yards to set UB up at the Rams' 46-yard line. After a pair of completions to Rivers for 21 yards, including a third-and-six conversion, Davis went up top to freshmen wideout Alex Neutz for a 21-yard score to make it 24-0 at the half.
Sophomore quarterback Davis would make quite a debut as the Bulls' starter, throwing for 302 yards and four touchdowns. Neutz, in his first career start, finished with five receptions for 99 yards.
Not to be outdone, the UB defense allowed just 207 total yards and recorded the first shutout since the 2001 season. The UB defense had five sacks in the game and forced two turnovers.
"I am obviously proud of the fact that we got a 31-0 win tonight," said head coach Jeff Quinn. "We saw some great performances out of our starter Jerry Davis, threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers, so I felt really good about how those kids responded.
"To be able to come in here and win this game, 31-0, our first shutout since 2001, that speaks volumes of what our defense has been able to do," said Quinn. (Defensive coordinator) Bill Inge did a great job with that defense and we look forward to seeing those kids come back and continuing to build on that success."
Rivers, who had seven career catches coming into the game, put on an all-time performance with 10 catches for 155 yards, in just three quarters of action. His 10 catches match all-time great Naaman Roosevelt for the tenth-best in school history. Davis became just the sixth quarterback in UB history to throw for at least four touchdowns in a game.
The Bulls started the game with the ball, and after picking up a pair of first downs, saw the drive stall. Junior punter Jake Schum, on his first career punt, hit a beautiful 45-yard punt that was downed at the Rhode Island one-yard line.
The Bulls defense then forced Rhode Island to punt after three plays, taking back over at their own 35-yard line. That's when the Bulls' offense began to purr.
Junior wideout Marcus Rivers made an incredible one-handed grab for a first down, before sophomore quarterback Jerry Davis connected with Terrell Jackson for a nine-yard gain and another first down.
However, the Bulls were stopped inside the Rhody 20-yard line and senior placekicker A.J. Principe came on and booted a 31-yard field goal for UB's first points of the season. Buffalo led 3-0 with 8:22 left in the first quarter.
The Rams, however, started the next drive in great field position by virtue of a 39-yard kickoff return by Stanley Dunbar to the Bulls 47-yard line. The Rams would eventually drive to the Buffalo 10-yard line before the UB defense rose up. Defensive tackle Richie Smith dropped a Rhode Island rusher for a one-yard loss on first down, and after an incompletion, linebacker Imani Chatman snuffed out a pass play for one yard. On fourth down, the Rams muffed the snap on a field goal attempt with senior cornerback Josh Thomas dropping holder Tim Edger for an 11-yard loss.
The Bulls appeared ready to put more points on the board when before a turnover swapped the momentum. After picking up three first downs and driving in side the Rhody 30-yard line, the Bulls fumbled with the Rams' Daniel O'Connell scooping it up and returning it 44 yards.
Rhode Island drove inside the UB 10-yard line before Buffalo responded with a momentum-swinging play of their own. On second and goal, senior linebacker Raphael Akobundu tipped a pass that was intercepted by Thomas at his own two-yard line and returned to the UB 24-yard line.
From there, freshmen wide receiver Alex Neutz took over. Neutz caught a short pass, broke a tackle and went 35 yards to get the Bulls drive moving. He then made an incredible fully-stretched diving 31-yard catch to move the ball to the Rhode Island five-yard line. Davis would cap the drive with a five-yard touchdown toss to wideout Ed Young, his first career score. After the PAT Buffalo led 10-0 with 11:31 left in the half.
It would remain close until late in the second quarter, when the Bulls score two touchdowns in a span of 1:16 to take control of the game.
In the second half, the Bulls defense took over – putting constant pressure on the quarterback, while disrupting Rhode Island's passing game. The Rams averaged just 2.7 yards per play in the game, including just 62 yards on the ground.
The UB defense was paced by senior Justin Winters, who had eight tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss, while fellow linebacker Fred Branch added eight tackles. Means finished with 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup, while freshman Khalil Marck had three sacks, a half-sack, a quarterback hurry and broke up two passes. Imani Chatman added a career-high seven tackles for Buffalo, whose last shutout came in November of 2001 in a 44-0 win over Ohio at UB Stadium.