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MO KNOWS: BULLS STAY ALIVE IN MAC EAST
A big come-from-behind win over Ohio this weekend is the signature victory of Maurice Linguist's short head coaching career
Image from UBBulls.com
How did Buffalo head coach Maurice Linguist feel about Saturday’s last-second, nerve-wracking 27-26 win over visiting Ohio—a game in which the Bulls (3-4, 1-2) overcame 21-point and 16-point deficits to win on a 26-yard Alex McNulty field goal with no time left on the clock after missing an initial 32-yard attempt negated by an offsides call on the Bobcats (1-6, 1-2)?
“I told the team last week in the locker room, I’m just really proud of the attitude and the effort and the resiliency and the toughness and grit and determination of the guys in the locker room and the coaches and support staff,” Linguist said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “Obviously, we didn’t start the game off the way we wanted to, and put ourselves in an early hole, and it takes a lot of poise to be able to battle your way back and do all of the things the guys were capable of doing—and coaches—staying in the rhythm of the game.
“There’s no 21-point plays, you weren’t going to get it all at once, (and) we just had to piece it together, one play at a time in terms of how we were going to put ourselves in a position to come away with a W. A lot of guys stepped up and made plays when we needed them to, and a lot of coaches made a lot of great calls with the game on the line.”
The win saved Buffalo’s season.
Losing to a bad Ohio team would’ve been depressing enough, but getting boatraced by the Bobcats would have been completely demoralizing—and, frankly, the Bulls looked completely demoralized after a sorry first quarter in which they gave up three rushing TDs (including an NCAA record-setting 99-yard scamper by Ohio QB Armani Rogers), were outgained 226 yards to 85, turned the ball over once, and fell behind 21-0.
It was a critical situation in Linguist’s burgeoning career as a head coach—his seventh game, to be precise. If the team quit on him, if the Bulls ended up losing to the Bobcats by 20, 30 points, it may have been time to start asking questions about the long-term future of Mo Linguist at Buffalo. They’re certainly asking those questions two states over about Ohio’s first-year leader, Tim Albin, who took over longtime coach Frank Solich’s program and—instead of competing for the conference title, as expected—is overseeing an implosion.
There was no quit. Instead, Buffalo (minus a botched fake punt in the third quarter that resulted in a safety) dominated the rest of the game. The Bulls’ offense posted 351 yards in the final three quarters while holding Ohio to 117. On its final three drives of the game, Buffalo chewed up 231 yards, scored 17 points, and held the ball for 13:15. The Bobcats, conversely, gained six yards on offense in the fourth quarter. Six!
The in-game turnaround reflects well on the Bulls’ young coach.
“We’ve had some tough situations this year,” Linguist said. “We’ve had some big-time great situations, as well, and had to deal with the results of some tight ballgames where things didn’t go our way. I think consistency is the key, poise in some critical situations. It’s a similar situation, two weeks in a row, where we’re down three possessions in the game, and the ability to have the poise and the confidence in the guys to collectively rally everybody. I think it all goes back to vision. It goes back to purpose. It goes back to having confidence in the people around you and then putting people in a position to go out there and play the way they’re able to play., and coaches making the right calls. Obviously, as the leader of the organization and program, I think much of it is responded and reflected off how I handle myself every single day. ”
Buffalo QB Kyle Vantrease was 22-of-30 for 251 yards with two TDs and an interception. Dylan McDuffie posted 143 rushing yards and a TD on 23 carries, getting the bulk of the work on a day when veteran star RB Kevin Marks, Jr. was out with a lower-body injury. Ten players recorded at least one catch in the game, led by RB Ron Cook’s 53 yards on four receptions and TE Tyler Stephens’ 52 yards and TD on four grabs of his own.
Defensively, MAC-leading tackler (and 4th in FBS) James Patterson racked up another 15 stops from his linebacker position. Defensive backs Cory Gross, Jr. and Marcus Fuqua had seven total tackles apiece, lineman Max Michel had five tackles and forced a critical fourth quarter fumble, and DT Daymond Williams made four stops and recorded a sack.
Honors were given: Patterson and McDuffie earned MAC East Player of the Week awards for defense and offense, respectively.
Up next, UB has another winnable game, a road trip to MAC East rival Akron (2-5, 1-2), a team that’s been outscored 266-149 this season. MAC East co-leader Kent State (3-4, 2-1), the presumed divisional favorite, just got manhandled by Western Michigan, 64-31. The other co-leader, Miami (Ohio), is #98 of 130 FBS teams in ESPN’s FPI rankings.
It’s kind of like Coach Mo said: just like there are no 21-point plays, there are no three-win victories. The Bulls just need to win this week to stay alive for the week after, and then do it again. As we mentioned in this newsletter last week—nothing is written in stone. The division, and the conference, can be had.
Buffalo just needs to keep going 1-0 each Saturday.
“We want to continue to play our best football, and continue to grow,” Linguist said. “We know there’s a big challenge in front of us over the next 35 days of the season, and every day we just focus on what’s in front of us.”
A Look Back at the MAC, Week Seven
Ball State 38, Eastern Michigan 31. The train keeps a-rollin’ for the Cardinals (4-3, 2-1), who jumped out to a 14-0 lead and then held on for dear life. WR Justin Hall had two rushing TDs and caught 10 passes for 58 yards, giving him receptions in 50 consecutive games—tops in FBS. His 301 career receptions lead active FBS receivers, according to ESPN.com. RB Carson Steele added 138 yards on the ground. The Eagles (4-3, 1-2) were led by QB Ben Bryant, who threw for 331 yards. Did I Call It? Yes I did, on the cover and the win.
Miami (Ohio) 34, Akron 21. Akron: not good. Miami took a cut of the MAC East lead beating up on the unfortunate Zips, whose third-string QB Zach Gibson (or maybe he’s just the starter now? Always tough to say with Akron) threw two TDs in the loss. The RedHawks (3-4, 2-1) were paced by QB AJ Mayer’s 229 passing yards, three TDs, and strong jawline. Did I Call It? I did! Miami was spotting Akron 20 points, which seemed a bit much for the mighty RedHawks. I had the Zips covering and Miami winning.
Central Michigan 26, Toledo 23. In a showdown of the MAC’s two most enigmatic teams], CMU (4-3, 2-1) recorded an overtime victory on a 38-yard Marshall Meeder FG after Toledo QB Dequan Finn capped a 73-yard drive with an 18-yard TD run with just :35 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Rockets (3-4, 1-2) have now lost two in a row while the Chips are on a little two-game win streak. Did I Call It? I did not! Toledo was a 4.5-point favorite and I took them to cover and win. I don’t think I’ve picked a Central Michigan game right all season. The Rockets made a game of it after falling behind 20-3 in the third quarter, anyway.
Northern Illinois 34, Bowling Green 26. The Huskies (5-2, 3-0) remained the only team undefeated in MAC play with a 319-yard rushing effort over the Falcons (2-5, 0-3). No Harrison Waylee (574 rushing yards), no problem for NIU, who were led by Jay Ducker’s 210 yards on the ground. BGSU, ranked 129th of 130 teams in rushing yards entering the game, actually ran for 161 yards and got 235 passing yards from QB Matt McDonald, to no avail. Did I Call It? I did not. I called the NIU win, but BGSU screwed up the 9.5-point Huskies spread with a 10-point fourth quarter.
Western Michigan 64, Kent State 31. Woof—WMU absolutely dogged Kent State, outscoring the Golden Flashes (3-4, 2-1) 41-14 in the second half en route to the rout. The Broncos (5-2, 2-1) were paced by NFL-bound QB Kaleb Eleby’s 307 passing yards and three TDs (he also ran for a TD) and Sean Tyler’s 169 rushing yards and 64-yard TD run. Receivers Jaylen Hall (144 yards) and Skyy Moore (140 yards) combined for three receiving TDs, including a 68-yard strike from Eleby to Hall. Did I Call It? Not even close! WMU was a seven-point favorite despite coming off a 25-point loss to Ball State, and that seemed a little crazy to me. Guess I’m the idiot!
Oh, and I picked Buffalo to win and cover. They won, they did not cover. 😬
My total for the week picking against the spread: 2-4
My total for the week picking winners: 4-2
For the season, I’m 26-29-1 against the spread. That’s not gonna pay the bills, gang. I am 37-10 picking winners, however, which is not too shabby. See you later this week, everyone.