Bulls Win Shootout Over Ohio, 38-37
BUFFALO, NY – The Buffalo football team had been in this position before this season, looking to preserve a back-and-forth struggle between two Mid-American Conference opponents.
But it was a measure of the growth the Bulls have made that on this day, despite four lead changes and huge momentum swings against the previously 4-1 Ohio Bobcats, the Bulls not only found a way to come back but how to hold on to a crucial 38-37 MAC win before 15,051 fans at UB Stadium
The win occurred because of a tremendous 18-play, 78-yard drive that concluded with Branden Oliver going over from one yard out on fourth down to give the Bulls a 38-34 lead. It was decided until Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton was sacked by senior defensive tackle Richie Smith for a nine-yard loss on fourth down at the Bobcat 39-yard line.
The heroes were abundant for the Bulls, whose offense broke out of a two-game slump with a huge day, racking up 510 yards of total offense, the most since an overtime game at Western Michigan in 2009.
Sophomore tailback Branden Oliver was an absolute workhorse for UB, running for a career-best 179 yards on 34 carries, scoring three rushing touchdowns and adding five receptions for 43 yards. Senior quarterback Chazz Anderson had a career-best 343 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns, while senior flanker Ed Young had a career-best 135 yards receiving on five receptions.
It was an historic play by Young that helped the Bulls recapture the second-half momentum in a game that went back and forth for four quarters. After Ohio had taken its first lead of the game, 31-24, on a 67-yard reverse by LaVon Brazill, the Bulls took just one play to respond. Young took a swing pass from Anderson, got a great block from wide receiver Marcus River, and burst 90 yards to tie the game
Ohio would strike back after a huge kick return, but the Bulls would surrender just a field goal after the Bobcats started the drive at the UB 48-yard line. The combination of Steven Means and Khalil Mack combined for a sack to force the OU field goal that gave the Bobcats a 34-31 lead with 14:19 left in the game. Means, who had a root canal on Friday and was questionable for the game, finished with four tackles, a quarterback hurry and 1.5 tackles for loss and inspired his teammates with his play. Mack, among the nation's leaders in forced fumbles and tackles for lost, was his usual self with five tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry and his fourth forced fumble of the year.
Trailing by a field goal, the Bulls got the ball back at their own 29-yard line. On the longest drive of the year in terms of plays, the Bulls converted three third downs and a fourth down to take the lead. It nearly never got started as on the first play, Oliver fumbled by guard Andre Davis was able to fall on it and keep the drive alive. Oliver would be the key to the drive, rushing for 14 yards on a third down play, catching a pass for another first down and finally driving in from the one-yard line on fourth down.
Said head coach Jeff Quinn afterwards on the decision: "There was no way I was going to kick a field goal. I said, 'this is the moment we have been talking about, now get the doggone football into the endzone.' " We had to dig deep to finish this game – that's a good team that came in here 4-1 and 1-0 in the MAC…I couldn't be more proud of our kids to be able to get the win."
Even after the score, however, Ohio had fight in them. After another huge kickoff return, this time to the Bulls' 22-yard line, the UB defense stepped up after a huge Ohio mistake The Bobcats were charged with a chop block at the five-yard line, setting them back to the UB 21-yard line where the Bulls stepped up and forced a field goal.
After Buffalo was stopped on downs, punter Jacob Schum helped flip the field with a gorgeous 48-yard punt that was fair caught at the Ohio 19-yard line. On fourth-and-five at the Ohio 39, Smith got the biggest sack of his career to win it for the Bulls. The Pen Argyl, PA native tied a career high with seven tackles, including six solo stops.
"That's something that coach (Jappy) Oliver has been teaching me since he's been here. The guard slid down a little too aggressively and I was able to get inside of him and make the play. The sack felt great, but the win felt even better."
The tenor of the game was set early that there were going to be plenty of offensive fireworks. The Bulls struck first on their second possession. Buffalo moved down the field with a beautiful blend of passing and rushing, traveling 60 yards in eight plays and capped by a 12-yard touchdown burst up the middle by tailback Branden Oliver with 8:58 left in the first.
The drive featured five runs and three passes, including 3-of-3 passing by Anderson including a 16-yard strike to Alex Neutz. Ed Young had a 10-yard catch and a crucial six-yard carry on third down to keep the drive alive.
It took Ohio just over a minute to tie the score, buoyed by a 67-yard kickoff return by Donte Harden. Just three plays later Harden took it in from 13 yards out and the PAT tied the score at 7-7 with 7:42 left in the first.
The Bulls regained the lead on the longest drive of the season, traveling 88 yards on 13 plays. Anderson was brilliant on the drive, completing six-of-seven passes for 74 yards, including a 28-yard strike to Terrell Jackson that took the ball inside the one-yard line where Oliver would rumble in from a yard out.
After an exchange of field goals, the Bulls went to halftime with a 24-17 lead. It would take all the Bulls had in the second half to hold off a very good Ohio team.
"We have been so close all year," said quarterback Anderson, "finally for four quarters we clicked and hats off to the offensive line, they played a great game."
After coming into the game with a mediocre 64 percent (6/11) scoring percentage and 45 percent touchdown percentage (5/11) in the red zone, Branden Oliver's 12- and 1-yard touchdown runs in the first quarter were the team's first red zone scores since Devon Hughes' 15-yard touchdown catch against Stony Brook. Peter Fardon added a field goal to give the team 17 points in the red zone in the first half. Oliver's three touchdown runs give him eight this season.
With a 58-yard scamper late in the second quarter, Oliver set a new career high for longest rush, and it put him over 100 yards before halftime. Oliver finished with 179 yards on 34 attempts (5.3 avg) and he now has over 100 yards in four games this season, also setting a new career high for yards in a game, surpassing the 126 he ran for against Stony Brook. The 179 yards on the ground were the most by a UB rusher since James Starks ran for 181 against UTEP in 2008.
The Bulls went on a 18 play, 78-yard drive in the fourth quarter to put the score at 38-34 in Buffalo's favor. The drive was the team's longest of the season, surpassing a 14 play, 86-yard drive against Ball State. Earlier in the game, the team passed the longest drive mark on the 90 yard drive on Ed Young's touchdown catch.
Buffalo's 14-7 lead after the first quarter was the first time all season that Ohio has trailed after one quarter, and it was the most UB has scored in the first quarter all season. The Buffalo offense also accumulated 313 total yards in the first half, more than the team had for the whole game against Tennessee and just six yards less than the total output against Connecticut.
The Bulls surpassed its season high for total yardage before the third quarter had even ended. UB finished with 515 total yards, the most since an overtime loss to Western Michigan in 2009 where the Bulls racked up 541 yards. The 38 points the team scored were the most since it score 42 in the 2008 MAC Championship game against Ball State.
After catching only four passes for 26 yards in the past four games, Terrell Jackson emerged as a top target for Chazz Anderson, hauling in five passes for 64 yards.
Fellow receiver Ed Young set a new career high with five catches (for 135 yards), including four in the first half alone and a 90-yard touchdown catch in the second half. The 135 receiving yards by Young were the most by any UB receiver this season.
Chazz Anderson was in the zone in the first half, completing 15-22 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown after the first two quarters. The super senior finished the game with 343 yards in the air and a completion percentage of 59 percent. His 343 passing yards are the most in his collegiate career (including his time at Cincinnati), surpassing the 276 yards he had against Pittsburgh.
Anderson's 343 yards passing were the most by a Buffalo quarterback since Drew Willy passed for 348 against Temple in 2008.
With the Bobcats threatening to score late in the first half, Steven Means tallied his second sack of the season to squash the drive and force Ohio to kick a field goal. Means added a half sack later in the game and now has 12 sacks for his career, the tenth most in program history.
With his fourth forced fumble of the season on a tackle for loss in the third quarter, Khalil Mack moved into a tie for second most in a single season.
After the Bobcats took its first lead of the day in the third quarter, Chazz Anderson connected with Ed Young on a 90-yard touchdown completion, one yard shy of the longest pass play in program history, to tie the game at 31-31.
Cortney Lester's first career interception came at an opportune time, picking off a tipped pass in the end zone as Ohio was threatening to score in the third quarter. Ohio QB Tyler Tettleton had gone four straight games without an interception.
The win over Ohio was the team's first over the Bobcats since a 2008 win in Athens, OH.