BUFFALO, NY – Playing without a number of key starters, the University at Buffalo football team dropped a 20-6 decision to Pittsburgh at a soggy UB Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Even without running back Branden Oliver and leading receiver Alex Neutz, the Bulls outgained Pittsburgh in total offense and had nine more first downs.
Head Coach Jeff Quinn's mantra has always been "Next Bull In" and that has never been tested more than this season as starter after starter has been lost to injury.
Freshman Devin Campbell rushed for a game-high 104 yards on 19 carries for his second 100-yard game in Oliver's absence. He became the first true freshman in the Bulls' Division I-A history to go over 100 yards in a game twice in a season.
Without the services of Neutz, John Dunmore filled in admirably. The sophomore receiver had seven catches for 72 yards. Prior to last week's game at Northern Illinois, the Syracuse native didn't have a catch in his career.
Buffalo's defense held quarterback Tino Sunseri, Pitt's fourth all-time leading passer, to just 128 yards passing. It was by far his lowest output of the season. His previous low was 239 yards against Youngstown State.
The defense was led by Khalil Mack who tied a career high with 12 tackles. Derek Brim, filling in for injured starting safety Witney Sherry, had a career-high seven tackles (all solo) and added a tackle for loss).
After being forced to punt on its first possession, Pittsburgh converted field goals the next two times it touched the ball to take a 6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
With the Bulls in Pittsburgh territory, early in the second quarter, the Panthers came up with a key turnover as Jason Hendricks picked off an Alex Zordich pass to end the UB threat. Pittsburgh was able to convert the turnover into a touchdown as nine plays later Rushel Shell found the end zone from four yards out.
Trailing 13-0, the Bulls battled back late in the half. An 11-play, 55-yard drive resulted in a 27-yard Patrick Clarke field goal that cut the lead to 13-3 with 4:16 left in the second quarter.
The defense stepped up and forced a Pittsburgh 3-and-out to regain possession with less than a minute left in the half. Buffalo capitalized as Clarke drilled a 41-yard field goal with just 12 seconds remaining in the second quarter to cut the Pitt advantage to 13-6 at the break.
Ray Graham scored on a 7-yard touchdown run with 6:29 left in the third quarter to put the Panthers ahead, 20-6. The Bulls put together some long drives, but just couldn't put any more points on the board and lost by the 13-point margin.
Zordich finished the day 23-of-41 for 165 yards through the air and added 79 yards rushing. His 23 completions and 41 attempts were both career highs. He spread the ball around to six different receivers. Devon Hughes had five catches, Campbell had four and Cordero Dixon had three grabs.
Buffalo had 334 yards of total offense compared to 254 for Pittsburgh.
"We had our opportunities and we had our chances, we didn't capitalize in terms of scoring," Quinn said. "We outgained them in total yards, but let's face it, it's about putting points on the board and we weren't able to do that. We had our moments out there tonight. I was proud of the way our kids competed. There's not a kid in that room that didn't desire to win that football game tonight."
Buffalo (1-6) will remain home and host Toledo next Saturday at UB Stadium.