ATHENS, OH – The University at Buffalo football team rolled up over 500 yards of total offense at Peden Stadium on Saturday afternoon, but it wasn't enough to hand the host Ohio Bobcats their first loss of the season as the Bulls lost to Ohio, 38-31.
For the second straight week the Bulls were without star running back Branden Oliver, so freshman Devin Campbell filled in. Campbell made his first career start a memorable one, rushing for a career-high 160 yards to become just the second true freshman to rush for over 100 yards in the Bulls' Division I-A era (since 1999).
As a team, the Bulls rushed for a season-high 313 yards against an Ohio defense that came into the game allowing just 94 yards per game on the ground. Along with Campbell, Alex Zordich also had a standout day running the football. The junior signal caller ran 18 times for 108 yards, making him the first quarterback in UB's Division I-A era to crack the century mark.
Buffalo looked in command early as the Bulls scored on their first two possessions to take a quick 14-0 lead. UB took the opening possession 75 yards down the field using the strength of its run game. Nine of the 10 plays on the drive were runs, capped off by Campbell's first career touchdown from three yards out.
Najja Johnson picked off Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton on Ohio's fist possession to give the ball back to Bulls at the Bobcats' 7-yard line. Buffalo responded with a 14-play, 93-yard drive over the next 5:35 and when Zordich found Devon Hughes in the back of the end zone from 10-yards out, Buffalo led 14-0.
The Bobcats struck right back the next time they touched the ball as Daz' Patterson returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
In the second quarter, the Bulls snuffed a fake field goal attempt by Ohio inside of its own 15 yard line, but a fumble would give the home team the ball right back at the 14-yard line. Beau Blankenship converted on the very next play to square the score at 14 apiece.
Turnovers were a huge problem for the Bulls in the first half as they had three second-quarter fumbles. The Bobcats capitalized by scoring two touchdowns off the turnovers and led 21-14 at the half.
On Ohio's first possession of the second half, it mustered a 45-yard field goal to put the lead at 10 points, but Buffalo would reach even deeper into its bag of tricks to score on the ensuing possession. After a 19-yard run by Campbell and an 8-yard run from Zordich, the Bulls went with the "Bo-Cat" formation with Alex Dennison filling in for Oliver.
The tight end, who had earlier in the game punched through for a handful of first downs running, took to the air and found a wide open Alex Neutz for a 55-yard touchdown.
The score brought the Bulls to within three, and after the UB defense held Ohio to just two yards on its next drive, Khalil Mack got a hand on the punt and gave the team solid field position that would lead to the game-tying field goal. Patrick Clarke remained perfect on the year after pushing through a 30-yard field goal that pulled the Bulls even at 24-24.
But the Bobcats bounced back with an 11-play, 65-yard touchdown drive on their next possession to regain 31-24 lead early in the fourth quarter. Ohio struck again when Ryan Boykin raced to the end zone from 51 yards out and suddenly Ohio led, 38-24, with 5:56 remaining in the game.
Buffalo gained possession with 1:49 left in the game and marched 77 yards on eight plays. The key play on the drive was a 32-yard completion from Zordich to Cordero Dixon that gave the Bulls the ball at the Ohio 3-yard line. Two plays later, Dennison punched it in from one yard out and suddenly the Bulls had life.
However, trailing 38-31, with just eight seconds remaining, the Bulls were unable to recover the onside kick attempt and the Bobcats held on for the victory.
"I told the team that they competed their tail ends off," head coach Jeff Quinn said. "They are obviously disappointed, as I am. We fell short today. We ran out of time. But I couldn't be more proud of our effort today."
The Bulls outgained the Bobcats 501-333 and ran 92 plays, surpassing its previous season high of 70. The team reached the 500 yard plateau for the eighth time since 1999, and the fourth time under head coach Jeff Quinn. Thanks to its efficient third down conversion, the Bulls also enjoyed over 11 extra minutes in time of possession, but Ohio's short fields would be too much to overcome.
Skinner led the defense with nine total tackles including the sack. Cortney Lester added five tackles and a pair of pass breakups. Tettleton's 183 yards passing were the fewest all season for the Bobcat QB, and Johnson's first-quarter interception was the first interception thrown by Tettleton this season. Blankenship was also held in check, rushing for only 86 yards on 24 carries, marking the first time all season that he failed to reach 100 in a game.
Campbell and Zordich became the first UB tandem since 2008 to both go over 100 yards in a single game, when James Starks and Brandon Thermilus went for 100 each against UTEP. The Bulls surpassed 300 yards on the ground for the second time this season, just beating out the 306 yards against Morgan State.
Originally a quarterback for the Bulls, Dennison was a unique threat as the Bo-Cat quarterback, rushing four times for 13 yards and a score and throwing the 55-yard touchdown to Neutz. Each of his four carries resulted in first downs.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback Joe Licata saw some time in the fourth quarter and went 5-for-10 for 38 yards.
The Bulls will play the third of three straight road games at Northern Illinois next Saturday.