BUFFALO, NY – Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn often quotes legendary football coach Vince Lombardi who said that a football game often comes down to five or six plays and who makes them.
Saturday night at UB Stadium that was exactly the case as, despite outgaining Big East foe Connecticut by a 319-293 margin, the Bulls dropped a 17-3 decision before 18,215 fans.
The keys to the game were two 60-plus yard catches by Nick Williams, one which went for a score and the other set up UConn's first touchdown, and the fact that the Bulls were only to score three points despite being inside the Huskies 35-yard line on four occasions.
"I asked these guys to leave it on the field tonight and looking at the way our defense played I was really proud of their effort," said Quinn. "To hold Connecticut to 80 yards rushing speaks volumes to the way these kids competed. Those two plays were the difference in the game. Overall I feel like we found something in a defensive unit that can keep us in games but we have to do our part offensively but to be able to go toe to toe with UConn, the way our kids competed, I'm proud of their effort."
The Bulls were just one-for-three in the red zone, missing a field goal in the first quarter and throwing an interception in the third quarter when it appeared they were ready to tie the game.
With the Huskies leading by a 10-3 score, quarterback Chazz Anderson threw a gorgeous pass down the right sideline to sophomore Alex Neutz, who bobbled and then caught the ball for a 45-yard gain to the Huskies six-yard line. However, on third and goal, Anderson's pass for Neutz was intercepted in the end zone. A flag was thrown for interference, but the officials ruled that the interference occurred after the interception.
The Bulls had another chance to tie the game early in the fourth quarter after another defensive stop that gave Buffalo the ball at their own 40-yard line with 14:18 left. A 16-yard burst by tailback Branden Oliver – who had 84 yards on 23 tough carries – on third-and-one set the Bulls up at the Huskies 35-yard line. However, a sack on Anderson, one of three UConn had in the game, ended that drive and Buffalo had to punt.
The Huskies put the game away when Williams caught a slant pass, broke a tackle and went 49 yards for the touchdown with 4:52 left in the game.
The loss spoiled a tremendous defensive effort by the Bulls, who limited a potent Connecticut rushing attack to just 80 yards. In fact, outside of the two long catches by Williams, UB gave up just 180 yards of offense.
The Bulls' defense recorded a season-best seven tackles for loss in the game added four quarterback hurries, including three by sophomore linebacker Kahlil Mack. Mack had another tremendous game, racking up seven tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack and three quarterback hurries.
Senior linebacker Fred Branch added a career-high 10 tackles, while fellow inside linebacker Lee Skinner had nine tackles and broke up a pass. Senior defensive end Gordon DuBois had one of the best games of his career with 2.5 tackles for loss including a sack.
Offensively, senior receiver Marcus Rivers had nine catches for 94 yards and Neutz added 83 yards on five catches. Anderson completed 18-of-39 passes for 193 yards and added 35 yards rushing.
The Bulls will hit the road next week when they play at Tennessee. Kickoff is 12:30 pm at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN.
Steven Means' blocked field goal in the first quarter was the team's first blocked field goal since Davonte Shannon blocked a field goal in the International Bowl against Connecticut, January 3, 2009.
Gordon DuBois collected his second solo sack in as many games with a vicious takedown in the first quarter to snuff out a UConn drive. DuBois finished the game with the sack and 2.5 tackles for loss and now has 5.5 career sacks.
With two punt returns for 15 yards, Terrell Jackson passed former teammate Naaman Roosevelt for sixth all time in total punt return yards, now with 273 yards for his career. Jackson also returned three kickoffs for73 yards.
Senior wideout Marcus Rivers set season highs with nine catches for 94 yards, breaking his previous highs of 8 for 83 against Pittsburgh. Sophomore Alex Neutz, his teammate on the opposite side of the offense, made five grabs for 83 yards, his third time going over 75 yards in a game this season.