Defense Shines in MAC-Opening Win at Bowling Green
It was justice for the Buffalo defense who played a tremendous game as UB outgained the Falcons by a whopping 441-176 yards and had 27 first downs compared to BG's 10. Nonetheless, UB (2-3, 1-0 in MAC play) nearly gave up a 28-13 lead in the fourth quarter as the Falcons scored on an 82-yard interception return and a 48-yard pass to cut the lead to two points.
Then after the Bulls' defense stopped the Falcons in the final two minutes – on an interception by senior Sherrod Lott – and it appeared Buffalo was en route to the win disaster nearly struck. On a second-and-eight play UB fumbled at its own 24-yard line and it appeared that the dominating performance may have gone for naught. But after the Falcons gained only two yards, and two Buffalo timeouts, BG kick Bryan Wright's 40-yard field goal fluttered wide right by a few feet and the Buffalo sideline erupted.
"I think the message we take away from this is we can be a very good football team when we are playing our 'A' game and taking great care of the ball," said head coach Jeff Quinn, who has now won his first game at Buffalo and his first MAC game, "but again the lack of focus and discipline is unacceptable. But anytime you can go on the road in the Mid-American at Bowling Green and escape all those mistakes and penalties and turnovers and get a win, it's a great feeling for these young men and hopefully we can continue learning from it and developing as a football program."
"The senior leadership on our defense is exceptional," said Quinn of his defense. "We looked for JT (Josh Thomas), Davonte (Shannon) and Domonic (Cook) to lead us this week and they kept their poise. Our defense did a tremendous job of tackling, taking the ball away, harassing their quarteback, all the things you expect out of a senior-oriented outstanding defense."
"We have to clean up the mistakes," said quarterback Jerry Davis who threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns. "It shouldn't have been that close. Give Bowling Green credit, they played hard, but we definitely had chances to put the game away and we've got to learn from this opportunity and finish games, but fortunately we found a way to win."
The Bulls' defense was relentless throughout the game, limiting BG's high-powered offense to a season-low 176 yards – BG had nearly 300 the week before at Michigan – and forced five turnovers.
The Bulls defense had a plethora of stars, none bigger than the safety combo of Domonic Cook and Davonte Shannon and freshman linebacker Khalil Mack. Cook had a forced fumble, broke up three passes and had an interception, while Shannon had five tackles, a pass breakup, an interception and a fumble recovery. Mack, the freshman phenom, had a team-high nine tackles (six solos), a sack, a forced fumble and four tackles for loss. Junior Richie Smith added six tackles, while defensive linemate Anel Montanez had five tackles and a half-sack.
Also of note was the play of senior cornerback Josh Thomas, who held Lamar Jorden, who came into the game second in the nation in receptions with 40, to just two receptions for 12 yards. Thomas finished the game with five tackles and broke up a pair of passes, one of which was intercepted by Shannon.
The Bulls quickly extended a 14-13 halftime lead to 28-13 as the UB offense came out rolling in the second half behind quarterback Jerry Davis. On the opening kickoff of the second half, freshman tight end Jake Reeder alertly caught a short kickoff and returned it 15 yards to the UB 49. It took Davis and the offense 10 plays to get in the end zone, with Davis connecting on a drive-extending throw of 16 yards on a third down play to flanker Terrell Jackson, before hitting Marcus Rivers from seven yards out for his second touchdown toss of the game.
After a three and out by Bowling Green, the UB offense went right back to work. Tailback Jeffvon Gill – 13 carries for 52 yards in the game – ripped off a 14-yard gain before Davis hit Reeder for a 25-yard gain. Davis capped the drive with a nine-yard strike in the back of the end zone to Jackson between two defenders. Jackson had a career-best 90 yards receiving on seven catches.
With Buffalo's defense dominating – UB forced Bowling Green into four straight three-and-out possessions to start the second half – it appeared like UB might cruise to the win. However, despite driving inside the BG 35-yard line twice more, the Bulls could not add to their lead and were forced to hold on to the final play of the game
In a wild first quarter, the Falcons found themselves with a 6-0 lead despite accumulating 21 yards of offense and no first downs. It occurred because of two costly turnovers by Buffalo that took away one scoring opportunity, while handing BG another.
Inside the five-yard line, after a 32-yard connection from Davis to Jackson, the Bulls fumbled near the goal line when quarterback Alex Dennison was hit on a running play. The Falcons recovered at the one-yard line and kept the Bulls off the scoreboard.
After forcing another Bowling Green punt, Davis was intercepted by BG's Lorenzi who returned the ball to the Bulls' five-yard line. One play later, tailback Jordan Hopgood found the end zone off of right tackle. The PAT was no good, and Bowling Green led 6-0 with 6:18 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bulls tied the game by virtue of another big defensive play. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack sacked BG quarterback Aaron Pankratz forcing a fumble that teammate Steven Means recovered at the BG 15-yard line. Buffalo took advantage of the opportunity, overcoming a holding call on a clutch third-and-six conversion from Davis to tailback Jeffvon Gill for eight yards. Senior tailback Ike Nduka finished the drive with a one-yard plunge, and after an A.J. Principe PAT, UB led 7-6 with 11:41 to go in the first half.
The Bulls' defense continued to be opportunistic later in the half. After a pair of BG first downs moved the ball into Buffalo territory, senior safeties Domonic Cook and Davonte Shannon combined for a turnover. Cook stripped Eugene Cooper, with Shannon falling on it at the Buffalo 37-yard line. Buffalo appeared poised to take advantage after a 25-yard connection from Davis to Marcus Rivers, but the drive stalled at the BG 17-yard line. Kicker A.J. Principe's 35-yard field goal was wide right and the game remained a one-point affair.
On the ensuing possession, the Falcons regained the lead on a 49-yard pass from Pankratz to Tyrone Pronty down the right hashmark with 3:37 remaining in the half.
Buffalo, however, had an important answer at the end of the half. Buffalo drove 65 yards in eight plays in just 3:08 to re-take the lead. Davis connected on all four passes on the drive for 46 yards, including a 24-yard rainbow in the right corner of the end zone that was hauled in by freshman Alex Neutz.
The Bulls then stopped any late BG opportunity when Cook intercepted his second pass of the season with under :15 to go in the half. Buffalo went to intermission with a 14-13 lead.
• Buffalo's captains for the game were senior cornerback Domonic Cook and junior wide receiver Terrell Jackson.
• The Bulls have now won three straight road MAC games, going back to last season's wins at Miami and Kent State. The win at Doyt Perry Stadium was UB's second straight.
• The five turnovers forced by the Buffalo defense was the most since Buffalo's 42-24 Mid-American Conference championship victory over Ball State. In that game, Buffalo recorded four fumble recoveries and an interception.
• Linebacker Jaleel Verser earned his first career start and recorded a career-best five tackles, including the first tackle for loss in his career.
• Tight end Jake Reeder matched his career high with two receptions for 32 yards, including a career-best 25-yard catch and run in the third quarter.
• Senior safety Davonte Shannon recorded five tackles in the game, giving him 377 on his career, moving past Pete Conley (1992-95) into third place.
• Shannon also recorded an interception for the second straight game, giving him eight for his career, one shy of 10th place on the career chart.
• Senior safety Domonic Cook had a career-best four passes defended in the game – three pass breakups and an interception, to move into a tie for third all-time with 32. He matched all-time great, and current Indianapolis Colt Mike Newton, at that figure.
• Quarterback Jerry Davis has now thrown for three or more touchdown passes in three of his five starts this season. Davis has 11 touchdown passes on the season, just two away from tenth place on the single-season list.
• Khalil Mack recorded career highs in tackles (9), solo tackles (6) and tackles for loss (4).
• Nose guard Richie Smith likes to play at Bowling Green. The junior tied his career high with six tackles, a mark he set at BG in 2008.
• Junior Terrell Jackson set career highs with seven receptions and 90 receiving yards and added a 15-yard punt return.
• Buffalo had five players (Jerry Davis, Jeffvon Gill, Ike Nduka, Brandon Thermilus and Branden Oliver) account for over 30 yards rushing in the game. Gill led the team with 52 yards after rushing for 172 yards vs. Bowling Green last season.
• Junior punter Peter Fardon had three kicks downed inside the 20-yard line in the game. Fardon now has 39 kicks downed inside the 20 in his career.
• Domonic Cook has now had a hand in on half of the Bulls' turnovers this season. Cook has two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and has forced two fumbles recovered by teammates.