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BULLS STEAMROLL EASTERN MICHIGAN, 50-31
The losing streak is officially over. Here's how it happened.
Old-timers say “act like you’ve been there before.” Well, the University at Buffalo football team went over 11 months between victories, and for several members of this roster, they hadn’t been there before—at least not as Bulls (1-3 overall, 1-0 in the Mid-American Conference).
After taking out MAC rival Eastern Michigan (2-2, 0-1), 50-31 at Rynearson Stadium (“The Factory”) on Saturday afternoon in Ypsilanti, a little joy was in order.
After the win Saturday, UB cornerback Jayden Oliver came racing out of the visitor’s locker room underneath Rynearson Stadium, shouting for his mother before he leaped into her arms. Loud music and laughter pulsed from the locker room, and seconds after (head coach Maurice) Linguist finished a post-game radio interview, he let out a primal scream.
“We got beat in every way by a team that came out hungry and played hard, harder than we did,” said Eagles head coach Chris Creighton after the game. “We’re not used to that. My hat’s off to them.”
How did UB go, in two weeks, from a team that couldn’t close out Holy Cross (lost two 14-point leads and the game) or Coastal Carolina (up 19-17 at the start of the fourth quarter, lost by 12 points) to a squad that never took its foot off the gas pedal?
The Difference Between Winning and Losing
Image from emueaglesphoto.com
We can start with the basic game notes, courtesy of The Detroit Free Press:
Cole Snyder threw for two touchdowns, ran for two more for visiting Buffalo (1-3, 1-0 MAC).
The teams combined to score on the first 10 possessions, the 10th a Buffalo touchdown for a 37-31 lead in the third quarter when Snyder found Jamari Gassett alone down the left sideline for a 65-yard play.
The first punt came after that, and though Mitchell Tomasek’s kick left Buffalo at its 1, the Bulls drove for an Alex McNulty field goal. They added another to lead 43-32 after EMU (2-2, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) turned the ball over on downs. The Bulls scored on their first nine possessions.
The Bulls (1-3, 1-0) avoided their first 0-4 start since 2005 and snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Snyder, a transfer from Rutgers, was 19-of-28 passing for 291 yards. Quian Williams had 93 yards receiving and a score. Mike Washington ran for two TDs.
EMU’s Austin Smith, who took over for injured Taylor Powell in last week’s 30-21 win over Arizona State, made his first career start and passed for a TD and ran for another. Samson Evans, who rushed for 258 yards on 36 carries against the Sun Devils, had just 52 yards on 15 carries against the Bulls. Tanner Knue had 106 yards receiving.
“We've had these last couple of weeks that have been tough losses for us, and a few things we didn't execute on in critical situations, critical moments, and what I'm proud of our team and our coaching staff is the fact that we were able to point those things out during the week, we addressed them and finally finished the way we know we were capable of finishing,” Linguist said. “It takes a lot of toughness to be able to still practice the way you need to practice, coach the way you need to coach and, ultimately, trust. The biggest statement that you can make about this game is that we talk about our culture. We talk about the trust that's in that locker room. You saw it today.”
Coach Mo! His stream of consciousness is like the Mississippi River. He wrapped 125 words around the most important point: the team consistently executed at critical moments. It made all the difference.
1. Cole Snyder
Image from emueaglesphoto.com
It’s an unfair reality of football—the quarterback gets too much credit when his team wins, and too much blame when they lose. That said, Cole Snyder (pictured above) had his first signature game as a Buffalo Bull on Saturday.
There’s the stat line—20 completions on 29 pass attempts, 297 passing yards, 35 rushing yards, and four total touchdowns (two by air, two by ground). He also led the team to a school-record 50 points in a MAC road game, and he ran offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery’s scheme to points on UB’s first nine possessions.
All of which is great—like, top-20 offensive players in the country for Week 4 great. Especially since it came on the heels on the Coastal Carolina game, in which Snyder appeared, at times, indecisive and prone to game-changing mental lapses (three turnovers and five sacks).
Against the Eagles, he was sharp.
Snyder targeted 10 different receivers, connecting with nine.
After scoring his first touchdown on a one-yard rush at 13:11 of the first quarter—saving a bad snap from ending that opening salvo in disaster—he responded to EMU’s kickoff return for a score by tossing a 14-yard pass on first-and-15, making the right call on a run-pass option on fourth-and-one with a five-yard keeper before doing the same on a fourth-and-three four plays later, and finally slinging a 13-yard touchdown pass to Quian Williams to take the lead right back at 13-7.
He unleashed Jamari Gassett on a 65-yard catch-and-run touchdown to open the second half. He closed the game by running out the final 4:27 on the clock.
Snyder took a first stride towards becoming the player we hope he’ll be—one of the program’s all-timers.
2. Quian Williams
Williams transferred from Eastern Michigan to Buffalo before the 2021 season. Undoubtedly this win was particularly sweet for him. Williams performed well at The Factory, posting 99 receiving yards on six catches and pulling in a touchdown.
Quian’s had better statistical games as a Bull—he had 105 yards and a touchdown against Holy Cross just two weeks ago, and two 100+ yard games with a score last season. His efforts on Saturday, however, were magnified by the moment.
Williams executed a terrific one-handed snatch-and-grab that prevented what could have been a crushing pick-six on a Snyder swing pass on the third offensive play of the game, exploding for a 59-yard gain to the Eastern Michigan one-yard line.
He pulled in Snyder’s end zone fade on UB’s next offensive series (video above)—yeah, he pushed off, so what?—for Buffalo’s second touchdown.
When the Eagles punched in a touchdown to cut the Bulls’ lead to 27-24 with 26 seconds left in the first half, Quian promptly returned the kickoff 75 yards to set up a successful last-second field goal for the reigning MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week Alex McNulty.
Williams was targeted five times in the third quarter, catching four balls, and then made the fourth-and six reception with under three minutes in the contest to officially seal the win.
Emerging star receiver Justin Marshall was targeted six times and made three catches for 45 yards. There’s still some math to be done to find the equilibrium between Snyder’s arm strength and Marshall’s speed.
In the meantime, it’s nice to have Williams, the Aaron Judge (to namedrop an inadvertent star of Saturday’s noon college football games) of the receiving corps right now—the player who can be both the home run hitter and the steady, solid producer.
3. Mike Washington and Ron Cook, Jr.
Image from emueaglesphoto.com
Before the game, we called for Washington to get the bulk of the carries, to use his heavyweight boxer’s frame to pummel EMU into submission. And he did!
Washington (pictured, top of page) led UB with 21 carries and two rushing touchdowns, collecting 71 yards in the process. He started slow—just eight yards on his first three carries—but Iron Mike broke threw in the second quarter with three consecutive clutch runs: a fourth-and one carry for five yards deep in the red zone, taking the ball to the Eastern seven-yard line; following that up with a run down to the one; and then plowing in for the score, giving Buffalo a 20-14 lead.
After slowing down again—10 yards on his next four carries—Washington started catching bodies as the Bulls worked to defend their 37-31 lead in the third quarter. Four yards. A yard. Four more yards. Six yards. Ten yards. An eight-yard reception on third-and-12, absorbing a targeting call on the Eagles’ Joe Sparacio which got the trash-talking linebacker (and former Boston College teammate of UB safety Jahmin Muse) tossed from the game. Mike was the hammer that relentlessly pounded away on the tired, frustrated EMU defense.
And Ron Cook (pictured above)—what can you say about the man? Ninety-two rushing yards and a 27-yard reception. Sixty-four rushing yards in the first half. A 17-yard run to end the third quarter immediately after Eastern Michigan struck out on fourth-and-six from its own 33-yard line, which also led to an unsportsmanlike conduct call on defensive lineman Jordan Crawford and another 15 yards.
We’ve heard people call Cook a scat back, which is traditionally a small, wiry burner out of the backfield. Yes, Cook is 5’9 and has speed, but make no mistake—he’s not a 160-pound jitterbug, he’s a 190-pound fire hydrant. When Cook keeps the legs churning in traffic and pushes forward, rather than screening behind a lineman and waiting for daylight, he is at his most dangerous. You can’t arm-tackle Ron Cook.
4. The Buffalo Defense
Image from emueaglesphoto.com
For the first 34:22 of this game, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking the Bulls’ defense was up to its usual tricks: 31 points and 137 rushing yards allowed.
Quarterback Austin Smith, the backup who’d appeared in two games in his collegiate career and had thrown two incompletions and taken a sack in the previous week’s win over Arizona State, was eight-for-eight on pass attempts for 156 yards and a touchdown and had ran for 70 yards and score.
Despite scoring 30 points in the first half, UB seemed to be blowing this game thanks to a unit that just couldn’t get a stop.
Then, the switch flipped.
Maybe it actually started when Muse forced a goal line fumble on star Eagles running back Samson Evans on EMU’s final touchdown of the game, a gaffe redeemed when Eastern’s Darius Boone snagged the loose ball for the score.
From that point on, Buffalo’s defense was dynamic.
Next EMU drive at 9:15 of the third quarter, Bulls lead 37-31: three and out.
EMU drive, 2:08 of the third quarter, UB leads, 40-31: four and out, capped by a pass breakup on fourth-and-six by longtime Buffalo cornerback Isaiah King.
EMU drive, 13:38 of the fourth quarter, Bulls lead, 43-31: four and out, Smith stuffed on fourth-and-two by safety Marcus Fuqua and defensive end Max Michel.
EMU drive, 8:39 of the fourth quarter, Bulls lead, 50-31: A seven-yard Daymond Williams sack and a nice open-field tackle by linebacker Shaun Dolac on Evans on fourth-and-long gives UB the ball.
EMU drive, 4:35 of the fourth quarter, Buffalo leads 50-31: Bulls defensive tackle George Wolo hurried Smith into a bad throw, leading to a batted (and kicked) ball that linebacker James Patterson grabbed for the interception.
Make no mistake: there’s still work to do.
Those first 34 minutes were ugly indeed, particularly to against an offense that’s almost completely one-dimensional. EMU starting quarterback and former Missouri/Troy product Taylor Powell was sidelined with an injury. There wasn’t a ton of pressure on Smith, an inexperienced second-teamer, when he did attempt to pass. Receiver Tanner Knue was frustratingly wide open whenever Smith looked his way, catching three balls for 106 yards and a touchdown.
And yet: Eastern recorded only 13 first downs. The Eagles finished with a miserly 327 yards of total offense. Their kick return game (three returns, 123 yards, one touchdown) was nearly as effective as their rushing attack (31 attempts, 137 yards, two touchdowns).
All this was done with cornerbacks Elijah Blades and Caleb Offord out with injuries, edge rusher Kyler Laing sidelined indefinitely with his own health issues, and defensive back Logic Hudgens apparently off the team.
Once the defense stiffened in the third quarter, the game was effectively over.
Love for the Offensive Line
Image from emueaglesphoto.com
Let’s not forget the big men up front. Snyder was sacked just once in the game. The rushing attack totaled 201 net yards and lost just 14 over the course of the game. Center Jack Hacz took a post-whistle shove from EMU’s Crawford that led to a 15-yard penalty, a field goal, and Crawford’s eventual ejection—one of two Eagles tossed from the game. Buffalo posted 498 yards on offense in the win.
Let’s keep these good feelings rolling into October. Horns up.
MAC Notes, Week 4
Image from 11alive.com
#1 Georgia 39, Kent State 22. The Golden Flashes (1-3) ended a brutal non-conference gauntlet that included games against #15 Washington, #18 Oklahoma, and the defending national champion Bulldogs with a surprisingly competitive performance. Coach Sean Lewis’ bunch turned the ‘Dawgs over three times, popped off a handful of big plays (including a 56-yard Devontez Walker touchdown) and trailed by just 10 points late in the third quarter. Did KSU post just 281 yards of offense while allowing 529? Sure, but the Flashes also gave Georgia it’s closest thing to a tight game since a 10-3 win over Clemson last September. Bravo, men.
#7 Kentucky 31, Northern Illinois 23. Another surprisingly tough game for an SEC competitor versus an alleged MAC jobber. Freshman quarterback Ethan Hampton, starting in place of injured Rocky Lombardi, threw for 196 yards and a touchdown. The Huskies (1-3) recorded five sacks on Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, forced two fumbles, and had six tackles for losses in a contest that was tied 14-14 at halftime.
#11 Penn State 33, Central Michigan 14. The visiting Chippewas (1-3) trailed 21-14 at halftime before the Nittany Lions put the game away with two second-half touchdowns. The home team was not happy with its performance: "There's a certain standard in this program," PSU defensive tackle PJ Mustipher said after the game. "I told the guys after the game that we've got to come out hot, we've got to come out better."
Mississippi State 45, Bowling Green 14. There would be no upset for the Falcons (1-3) in Starkville. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 17-0 first quarter lead, and were up 31-7 at halftime. MSU quarterback Will Rogers burned BGSU for six touchdown passes, tying his own school record.
Ohio 59, Fordham 52. Watch out for ranked FCS teams! #20 Fordham gave the Bobcats (2-2) a run for their money in a wild one. From ESPN.com: “Kurtis Rourke set a single-game passing record for Ohio with 537 yards and his fourth touchdown pass went to Jacoby Jones with 52 seconds remaining to help Ohio hold off FCS-member Fordham 59-52 on Saturday. Fordham, trailing 53-52, drove to its 40 with five seconds left but the final play ended in Bryce Houston's fumble return for a touchdown to prevent an FCS-FBS upset.” Rams QB Tim DeMorat threw for 503 yards and six touchdowns on the beleaguered OU defense.
San Diego State 17, Toledo 14. The Rockets (2-2) sputtered on the road a week after a 60-point demolition by #2 Ohio State. Seven-point favorites in SoCal, Toledo was held scoreless through the first three quarters and electric quarterback Dequan Finn threw three interceptions in the loss.
Liberty 21, Akron 12. The Zips (1-3) stayed within striking distance and were down 14-12 in the fourth quarter in Lynchburg, Va. before the Flames pulled away. DJ Irons threw for 269 yards and a touchdown in defeat.
Georgia Southern 34, Ball State 23. A 14-point fourth quarter allowed the Eagles to put the visiting Cardinals (1-3) away. Old friend Kyle Vantrease threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. He also rushed for a third. Let Kyle cook!
Miami 17, Northwestern 14. A minor upset here as the RedHawks (2-2) took out the struggling Wildcats. Quarterback Aveon Smith, starting in place of injured Miami QB Brett Gabbert, was—well, he was limited, as they say, throwing for 62 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore running back Keyon Mozee broke loose for 171 yards to pace the offense. Looks like Buffalo can expect a similar scheme to what it saw in EMU when the ‘Hawks come to UB Stadium this weekend.
San Jose State 34, Western Michigan 6. The struggle for the Broncos (1-3) offense is real. Freshman starting quarterback Jack Salopek, not exactly a star in his first turn at the helm, sat with an injury and backups Mareyohn Hrabowski and Stone Hollenbach combined to throw for 71 yards and an interception on 13 attempts. Once again, without a true passing threat, running backs Sean Tyler and La’Darius Jefferson—who combined for nearly 2,000 rushing yards in 2021—were locked up, running for 94 total yards in the loss.
UP NEXT: COACH MO’S WEEKLY PRESSER, THE MIAMI PREVIEW & THE BUSINESS OF FOOTBALL
We’ll break down Coach Linguist’s Tuesday (today!) press conference, consider what we’re dealing with in the RedHawks, and take a quick look at some of the other big football projects across the country—and what that means for Buffalo. Horns up, everyone.
These photos are actually for sale at the link, if you’re interested.
Not a lot of coverage available after this game besides Rachel Lenzi’s Buffalo News story. Hate to over-aggregate, Rachel, but you were the only person with a travel budget this week.