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TOUGH DAY FOR BGSU, BIG WIN FOR THE BULLS
Buffalo demolishes Bowling Green, takes a big step forward in the MAC East race
Image from bgsufalcons.com
Bowling Green head coach Scot Loeffler was hyped up.
The University at Buffalo football team was coming to town on Saturday, and Loeffler laid it on thick at his weekly press conference:
Well, if you're not locked in for this one, you don't have any red blood in your in your body. This is gonna be a heck of a game. This is the first time in a while that it's a Mid-American Conference game that's relevant for us. What I told our team is that this is Super Bowl number two. Everything's going to matter. Our preparation’s gotta be elite.
I think Buffalo is better. I think we're better. I think it's going to be a heck of a football game. It's gonna be the team that's locked in and focused the most. We're finally in a position, I've been telling our players for the last four years that whenever you're in big football games and ones that matter, it generally comes down to two or three plays. I think this is one that will come down to two or three plays.
Loeffler was right—a handful of plays did decide this game. Unfortunately for the coach, his Falcons (2-3, 1-1 in Mid-American Conference play) were on the wrong side of all of them.
Image from toledoblade.com
The Bulls (3-3, 3-0) followed an increasingly impressive win over Miami last week (the RedHawks never trailed in a 27-24 victory over Kent State on Saturday) by thrashing BGSU, 38-7, leaving Loeffler in a morose mood while establishing UB as the MAC East’s pace-setter for October.
Let’s look at the game-changing moments.
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1. Quian Williams’ 33-Yard Tip Drill
Buffalo wideout Quian Williams, who leads the team with 404 receiving yards, had only one reception on Saturday.
That single catch, however, sets the tone: we’re tougher, and we’re better.
On the third play of the first quarter, Bulls quarterback Cole Snyder hangs in and absorbs a hit from 300-pound lineman Karl Brooks to launch a 30-yard bullet in the direction of Williams, who’s angling through a narrow window between defensive backs Trent Sims and Jalen Burton towards the left sideline.
Williams turns, leaps, and grabs at the pass. He tips it, turns, grabs it again, staggers forward, and is promptly drilled down by Sims. Quian lands hard out of bounds, The ball remains neatly tucked in the crook of his left arm.
One problem with a high-tempo offense: when a play or two doesn’t hit quite right, your punter’s on the field. If Williams drops that ball, the offense may stall. Instead, the defense is stunned, Buffalo’s on the Falcons’ 31-yard line, and, five plays later, have the first touchdown of the game.
2. Matt McDonald’s INT: F-U-Q-U-A
Buffalo safety Marcus Fuqua intercepts his second pass of the season on the Falcons’ first drive—a clean snag of a Matt McDonald pass intended for the QB’s old Mission Viejo (Calif.) High School teammate, Austin Osborne. It is only McDonald’s second interception of the season.
Someone made the wrong read: either the senior signal-caller, who has time in the pocket but rushes a second-level throw, or Osborne, who clearly interprets the coverage differently than his old pal and is heading upfield when Fuqua makes the pick. Either way, it’s the Bulls’ fourth interception of the 2022 campaign, already one more than UB had in the entire 2021 season.
3. No Quarter Asked, None Given
UB kicks a field goal following Fuqua’s interception. A bit of a letdown—points are nice, but on the road, when you get extra possessions, you want to punch it in.
McDonald doesn’t turn the ball over much, he’s thrown for 14 touchdowns in four games (tied for 17th in the nation), and it’s entirely possible he starts hanging up scores of his own. It’s only BGSU’s second series of the game, after all.
On first-and-10, sophomore running back Jamal Johnson looks for a seam as he slides right; instead, Buffalo linebacker Shaun Dolac finds him, ripping Johnson down for no gain.
On the next snap, McDonald drops back and is immediately enveloped by blitzing safety Jahmin Muse and lineman Daishon Folsom for a loss of three yards.
On third down, North Carolina State transfer Ibrahim Kante pressures McDonald into a hurried incompletion. Time to punt.
Instead of a momentum swing, the defense slams the door shut.
Despite notching 14 tackles for the second straight week, Dolac did not repeat as the MAC East Defensive Player of the Week—that honor went to linebacker Ryan McWood of Miami, who made 11 tackles in the RedHawks’ win over KSU. Dolac’s 14 tackles were the game high, six more than Bowling Green safety Chris Bacon (eight combined) as the Bulls’ defense held the Falcons to three of 14 on third-down conversions and forced four turnovers.
Muse, according to Pro Football Focus grades, is the 35th-best pass-rushing safety in Division 1 football. His coverage and pass rush grades are steadily increasing, along with his value as an every-down player and leader in the UB defense. He forced another fumble in this game, and is now tied for third in the country among leaders in the category.
Image from sent-tribune.com
Muse and a pair of fellow transfers—Elijah Blades (pictured above), or as we know him here, “Four-star Florida transfer Elijah Blades,” and juco star Keyshawn Cobb, have stiffened up a once-porous secondary. Notre Dame transfer Caleb Offord returned after missing last week’s game, and recorded a tackle and a pass breakup.
As for Kante—while his numbers don’t pop out, he’s played 277 snaps this season, easily the most for any Buffalo edge rusher. His nine tackles are approaching the career high—14—he recorded as a freshman. Over the past two games, he’s impacting passing attacks, showing up on the stat sheet in different ways. Kante’s another Bull on the verge of a breakout.
4. Jamari Does It Again
First-and-10 from the Bowling Green 48, 5:08 in the first quarter—we’re still in the first quarter!—and Snyder, from the shotgun, fakes a handoff and fires a slant into receiver Jamari Gassett’s numbers at the Falcons’ 38. It’ll be a first down if Gassett doesn’t get crushed by converging safeties Chris Bacon—BGSU’s leading tackler this season—and Trent Sims.
Nope. Gassett executes a spin move that leaves both defenders tackling a shadow, and the former high school track star who once ran a 10.92-second 100-meter dash races down to the Bowling Green one-yard line. Running back Ron Cook punches it in on the next play. UB’s up, 17-0, with over four minutes left in the first quarter.
Gassett doesn’t touch the ball a lot—he has five receptions over the past three games—but he makes the most of what he gets. He’s collected 115 yards on those five catches, an average of 23 yards per touch. Gassett’s presence on the field is always a threat.
5. Cole Snyder Saves a Touchdown
A couple weird notes on quarterback Cole Snyder’s stat sheet on an otherwise ordinary day (12-for-19, 171 passing yards, no touchdowns or interceptions, 20 rushing yards): one reception for 15 yards—a nice catch on a Quian Williams pass (how often does Quian Williams have as many completions as receptions?)—and one tackle.
The tackle turned out to be a pretty big deal. With the Bulls up, 17-0, late in the first quarter, Snyder dumps a third-and-long screen pass at midfield to running back Mike Williams. Falcons defensive lineman Kitione Tau strips the ball from Williams, and the fumble is immediately scooped by defensive back Jordan Oladokun at BGSU’s 49-yard line.
Oladokun’s off like a shot down the sideline, a clear path to the end zone. Snyder saves six by beating Oladokun on an angle and executing a textbook form tackle that sends the sprinting sophomore off his feet.
This was a true sliding doors moment. After the play, Bowling Green is tagged with an unsportsmanlike penalty for sideline interference, pushing the ball back to the Buffalo 46. The drive ends with an absolute debacle:
What happens if Oladokun scores? A 17-7 game, and an intense momentum swing would’ve been a much different way to end a wild first quarter the Bulls otherwise dominated.
The UB offense fizzled on its next two drives—what happens if a reinvigorated BGSU squad starts moving the ball? What if Buffalo feels pressure to get away from the run game? What if the tough Bowling Green pass rush, which did temper the pass game, started hitting home?
The alternate scenarios get scary quickly.
Fortunately, the quarterback played some linebacker at Southwestern High School—and he doesn’t quit.
6. Iron Mike’s Revenge
So—2:55 left in the second quarter. UB’s still up, 17-0, but sees a drive die at the Falcons’ one-yard line and, on its the next series, goes three-and-out.
Buffalo’s still in the driver’s seat, but…you want more.
A 17-point lead doesn’t feel particularly safe in college football with a full half to play.
BGSU calls a timeout after a five-yard Washington run from the Bulls’ three-yard line. It’s now third-and-three, and if UB is forced to punt, Bowling Green should get the ball with decent field position and time to run a comfortable two-minute drill.
Well, they do get the ball back.
Washington takes a shotgun handoff from Snyder and runs 92 yards for a touchdown. After some officiating weirdness,1 the score is confirmed, kicker Alex McNulty bangs through a PAT, and suddenly the score is a much less tense 24-0.
Sweet relief for Washington, who made up for his fumble and did his part to atone for last season’s embarrassing 56-44 home loss to the Falcons in one fell swoop. He spoke to Rachel Lenzi of The Buffalo News after the game:
“The whole week, we thought about that, losing to Bowling Green last year,” Washington said. “They treated it like it was a Super Bowl, so coming into this game, we knew that. We knew how we felt last year and we knew we could not let that happen again.”
Let give some credit to the offensive line on this play. Right tackle Desmond Bessent and right guard Tyler Doty, along with center Jack Hasz, make a wall that allows Washington to scoot through the middle of the pack and cut outside essentially untouched. That’s outstanding run blocking.
The fun part is that tight end Robbie Mangas goes in motion and confuses linebacker Demetrius Hardamon so thoroughly that, without even making a block, the Dartmouth transfer draws open another hole Washington could’ve used for big yardage.
Iron Mike’s become a critical piece of the Buffalo backfield. Ron Cook still gets significant carries—he has 85 rushes, in fact, compared to Washington’s 83—but the redshirt freshman from Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) High School has 48 runs in the past three games. Third back Al-Jay Henderson, who scored the first Bulls’ touchdown of the season against Maryland, has been relegated to spot duty.
Washington’s six rushing touchdowns are tied for the MAC lead, and he’s sixth in the conference in rushing yards with 409.
Washington’s not quite on the same tier as the elite MAC rushers—Eastern Michigan’s Samson Evans and Ball State’s Carson Steele each have over 600 yards this season (630 and 610, respectively), Kent State burner Marquez Cooper has 542 yards on the ground, and Northern Illinois’ Harrison Waylee (472 rushing yards) and Central Michigan’s Lew Nichols III (409 rushing yards) are just getting warmed up—but he’s getting closer.
7. James Patterson Strip-and-Score
We’ll say it again: linebacker James Patterson deserves a statue in front of UB Stadium when he finally exits this program (and Summer Hemphill deserves one in front of Alumni Arena, but that’s a story for women’s basketball season).
Patterson has more solo tackles (31) through six games than he had in either the entire 2019 or 2020 seasons. He’s 10th in the MAC with 45 total tackles. He and Shaun Dolac play almost every down in defensive coordinator Brandon Bailey’s nickel-heavy scheme, in which 6’0, 200-pound strong safety and run-stuffer Keyshawn Cobb is used a hybrid defender. Patterson’s not getting many breathers, and he’s almost always in the thick of the action.
It’s nice to see perseverance rewarded. With Buffalo up, 31-0, at 8:33 of the third quarter, Bowling Green probably wasn’t coming back—even so, if the Falcons got the final three yards of a drive that started at their own 19-yard line and cut the score to 31-7, it means a fun game starts to become a grind. Chipping away at the score, the potential for injuries, and the exhaustion of playing out the clock starts to poison a nice win with threads of doubt.2
BGSU did not get those final three yards. On third-and-goal from the three, Patterson met Bowling Green running back Jamal Johnson at the line of scrimmage, yanked the ball from his mitts, and went 97 yards for UB’s final TD of the day.
The touchdown was the first of Patterson’s UB career (despite, oddly enough, nine rushing attempts as a freshman?).
Image from sports-reference.com
No one deserved a touchdown more than James.
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Around the MAC, Week 6: The Plot Thickens
Two weeks from now, Buffalo may host the MAC Game of the Year. Read and find out why!
Eastern Michigan 45, Western Michigan 23: Was a little shocked the Eagles (4-2, 1-1) came into this game 5.5-point underdogs against a Broncos (2-4, 1-1) squad that struggled to do anything on offense in three of its first four games (not counting WMU’s 44-7 win over FCS New Hampshire). EMU QB Taylor Powell completed 20 of 30 pass attempts for 293 yards and three touchdowns.
Ohio 55, Akron 34: The Bobcats (3-3, 1-1) scored over 50 points for the second time in three weeks. They also gave up over 30 for the third week in a row. Ohio QB Kurtis Rourke had an insane game, going 24-for-27 for 427 yards and three touchdowns. Four receivers went over 100 yards in this game—Akron’s Shockey Jacques-Louis (152) and Daniel George (108), and OU’s Sam Wiglusz (144) and Jacoby Jones (121).
Ball State 17, Central Michigan 16: The Cardinals (3-3, 2-1) may be the surprise of the MAC West (in a good way) while the Chippewas (1-5, 0-2), 2021 Sun Bowl victors, are wilting early. Lot of season left! Tough to get a read on Ball State—their offense, despite Carson Steele’s 124 rushing yards, was anemic in the win, and their defense had to score a third-quarter touchdown to keep this game close enough for kicker Ben Von Gunten to kick go-ahead field goal in the fourth.
Miami 27, Kent State 24. Golden Flashes QB Colin Schlee threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to dig out of a 17-point hole in a loss to the RedHawks (3-3, 1-1). Aveon Smith, guys—he keeps getting better every game. The Miami QB threw for 179 yards and ran for 71, but if you watched the game, you saw there’s more there than the stats show. The young man runs a smooth offense and has that lighting, quick-strike speed we saw against Buffalo. Tyre Shelton ran for two touchdowns in the win, while KSU’s Dante Cephas—sixth in the country in receiving yards—caught nine balls for 118 yards and a touchdown. His Golden Flash teammate Devontez Walker (22nd in receiving yards) grabbed 11 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns.
Toledo 52, Northern Illinois 32: With two straight MAC wins after a pair of humiliating non-conference losses, the Rockets (4-2, 2-0) are apparently done screwing around. Toledo QB Dequan Finn threw three touchdowns but the real story was cornerback Quinyon Mitchell—my man intercepted four passes, tying a 72-year-old school record, returned two for touchdowns (that is a school record) and was named Walter Camp Football Bowl Subdivision National Defensive Player of the Week. He’s the first Rocket to win the award since DeJuan Rogers in 2013. After dominant MAC West wins over CMU and defending MAC champs NIU (1-5, 0-2, and looking like the party’s over), Toledo faces Kent State this Saturday in an absolutely crucial game for the Golden Flashes (2-4, 1-1) and is on the road to Buffalo the week after.
The implications are, well, considerable. Let’s game this out:
If Toledo beats KSU, Buffalo (who faces non-con UMass on Saturday) builds a two-game lead on Kent State if the Bulls then beat Toledo.
If KSU beats Toledo, a Buffalo loss to Toledo keeps UB in a weird, three-way first-place tie, assuming Miami beats BGSU this week and WMU next week. Why? One-loss Buffalo has a leg up on one-loss Miami, but one-loss Miami has a leg-up on one-loss Kent State...call Jon Steinbrecher, not sure how the math works. It’s mid-season, who cares!
All of which, in turn, sets up a monster game for Buffalo with Ohio in three weeks, because the one-loss Bobcats—oh, hello—could sneak into the first place conversation in the MAC East by beating WMU this week and NIU next week, both of which seem pretty realistic right now.
And hold on just one second! Don’t forget our old friends Bowling Green. If Scot Loeffler whispers the magic words and the Falcons do beat Miami at home this week (unlikely, but possible) and Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant next week (possible, but unlikely) then BGSU is right back in the thick of it, too.
Confused? Let’s put it this way—as long as Buffalo beats Toledo at home on Oct. 22, everything is fine. Buy your tickets now!
It wasn’t explained particularly well on the broadcast, but I believe this is what happened: tight end Robbie Mangas pulls, which confuses the officials, because Mangas and fellow TE Trevor Borland both lined up as set backs, not linemen, which meant Mangas did not need to come set after going in motion. So, essentially, the officials weren’t paying attention to, you know, the game.
And if you really want to look back at the dark days of 2021—the Bulls did everything in their power to blow 21-point second-half lead in a 35-34 road win at Old Dominion last season. Let’s not do that ever again.