BUFFALO, NY – It was a lost evening at UB Stadium, as the Bulls lost their starting quarterback, four turnovers and the football game to visiting Ball State by a 20-3 score.
The Bulls led 3-0 when starting quarterback Alex Zordich was lost to a rib injury in the first quarter and Buffalo was outscored 20-0 from that point on in dropping to 2-8 on the season.
The Bulls struggled mightily offensively after Zordich's injury as backup Jerry Davis completed 5-of-16 passes for 39 yards. Buffalo was held to a season-low 144 yards of total offense.
Buffalo's defense had a season-high four players in double figures for tackles, led by senior safety Davonte Shannon, who recorded 15 tackles, including eight solos. It was Shannon's eighth game in his career where he recorded 15 or more tackles, and leaves him just 17 shy of tying the all-time school record for total tackles of 455 by Craig Guest (1993-96).
Senior linebacker Raphael Akobundu added 11 tackles and a pass breakup, linebacker Justin Winters added 10 tackles, as did senior cornerback Josh Thomas. Thomas added a sack, a forced fumble and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Winters' 10 tackles moved him into sole possession of ninth place with 283 total tackles.
Buffalo's only points opened the scoring as Zordich converted a pair of third downs. The freshman ran eight yards for a first down, then converted a third-and-five pass play to fellow frosh Alex Neutz for seven yards. Zordich converted a third-and-six with a six yard quarterback draw before being knocked out of the game on an 11-yard rush to the Ball State 32-yard line.
From there, senior kicker A.J. Principe drilled a 49-yard field goal, the longest of his record-breaking career, to give Buffalo a 3-0 lead with 3:06 left in the first quarter.
However, after that it was all Ball State. The Cardinals took the lead for good on the ensuing drive, converting a second-and-20 situation en route to Keith Wenning hitting a 32-yard pass play to Otis Brown for the go-ahead score.
Buffalo trailed 10-3 at halftime and Ball State took full control of the game on the first play of the second half. Davis scrambled to his right and after a five-yard pickup, was stripped by Ball State safety Sean Baker who returned the ball 26 yards for the back-breaking score to put the Cardinals up 17-3.
Buffalo wraps up its home schedule a week from Saturday when they host Eastern Michigan at 2 pm at UB Stadium.
Justin Winters, Davonte Shannon, Peter Bitner and Kyle Brey served as captains for tonight's game.
Senior kicker AJ Principe kicked a career-long 49 yard field goal to put the Bulls ahead early against Ball State.
In attendance at the game were former Bulls James Starks, Drew Willy, Naaman Roosevelt, Joe Freedy and Chris Shelly among others. In addition, current Buffalo Bills Jairus Byrd, Donald Jones and Marcus Easley were also in attendance.
Josh Thomas recorded his second sack of the season, forcing a fumbling after coming from the blind side late in the second quarter. The senior cornerback finished the game with ten tackles, tied for a career best.
The Buffalo punt coverage team blocked its first punt since 2008 in the third quarter when Ray Anthony Long got a hand on the Ball State kick. The last time the Bulls got a block was Sept. 27, 2008 when Tom Drewes got one against Central Michigan.
Junior Terrell Jackson continued his climb up the all-time special teams ranks. With his third kickoff return, he took sole possession for most career kickoff returns, with 59. That puts him just past Dahnel Singfield. His 1122 total kickoff return yards now gives him sole possession of sixth place, moving ahead of Dave Dawson (1080).
Senior linebacker Raphael Akobundu recorded a career-high eleven tackles. The Bulls had four players with double-digit tackles in the game.
Head Coach Jeff Quinn Quotes
Give Ball State credit they outplayed us tonight. We certainly didn't do any favors for ourselves. Not enough offense, we turned the ball over, we lost some key players one of them being our quarterback. That had an effect in terms of this game but I think that overall it has just been foolish penalties and point of attack mistakes and we have not been playing well enough to win a football game. Obviously, it bothers me and our entire football program to be in this position. We are going to give it 24 hours and get back to preparation for Eastern Michigan and try to move this football program which has been tough.
On the status of QB Alex Zordich:
I don't know exactly. I know the medical staff is looking at him and a couple other guys. We are going to have to wait and see until I get better information from my medical staff. Hopefully he will be alright and play more before our season is over.
On keeping Zordich out for precautionary reasons:
I think they needed to take a look at him. He took a shot in the side of his body and I think that impacted his ability to go in there and perform so I think that we had to get him out of there and see where he was at. He may be out I don't know the extent right now.
On the frustration of losing Zordich after continuing to make progress throughout games:
Any time you lose a player and the top player of your offense, he has done a great job it takes a little bit out of you. We have a mentality here, next bull in. We spent a lot of time with Jerry (Davis) early on to come in and run this team. I said to Jerry, "Son you are going to have your chance there is going to be a potential moment in this season where you are going to have an opportunity to go back in there and re-establish yourself as the top leader and quarterback in this offense." He struggled tonight.
On his assessment of Davis in tonight's game:
He struggled. It is just not him, if he had a receiver open and a tackle got beat, a series of one group over another. Everyone seems to take their own time, one time we had a receiver open but the tackle got beat, one time we didn't have the right route. A lot of mental errors and that is really disappointing.
On the Ball State fumble recovery to start the third quarter:
Halftime it is 10-3. We get the possession off the kickoff in the third quarter we have crafted up half time adjustments talking about what direction we wanted to go and how we were going to move the ball. Next thing we know they are down there and they rip the ball right out of our hands and they score six out of it and that hurt us. Then they were able to kick a field goal and really take control of the game.
On the starting quarterback for next game:
I can't say right now…I need a chance to really evaluate all of our players but I am not going to say one way or the other. I am going to take a look at our best chance to be successful whoever that may be whether it is Jerry or Alex Dennison or another freshman.
On Ball State controlling the clock for most of the game:
When you really look at this game from my perspective they really took control of the line of scrimmage. That was a big part of the outcome and those are things we have to do a better job of whether we have to add pressure or making sure our guys are fresh coming off of longer drives and things of that nature and we were not able to do that on our end and that hurts. We are getting the ball and turning it right back over to the defense without sustaining any drives and it is tiring out our defense. It all works hand in hand and we have to do a better job of making plays and moving the chains and taking care of the ball and keeping our defense off the field. When you put your guys back on the field as quickly as we are with our defense they get worn down.
On the next two games:
I want to win a football game. That is what I want and that is what this team needs. I am going to find whatever it takes to get this team to understand what it is going to take in all three phases, offense, defense and special teams. We have to do a better job offensively. You can't win games scoring three points you can't win games turning the ball over, you can't win unless playmakers are making plays and running plays effectively. We have been playing too much catch up football and you're not going to sustain and get wins playing like that. I am going to find another way to get this team to play at its highest level against Eastern Michigan. I am not going to get through these last two games I am going to get through the next moment and get this team ready to play. This next game is going to be most important.