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UB Bulls fall to Bowling Green in MAC opener

Falcons’ offensive attack too much for Bulls in homecoming game

YouTube: Football recap: Bowling Green defeats Bulls

Hurt and anger.

Those were the two words junior running back Jordan Johnson used to describe the football team’s 28-22 loss to Bowling Green on Saturday.

The Bulls (2-3, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) opened MAC play with a loss to the Falcons, (3-2, 1-0 MAC) at UB Stadium in a homecoming game attended by 20,843 people. The Bulls fell behind 28-9 in the fourth quarter but rallied back – only it wasn’t enough. The loss gave Buffalo its second straight home loss of the season and extended its losing streak against Bowling Green to five games.

“We were just settling for field goals early, they got the touchdowns and that was it,” said head coach Lance Leipold. “They’re a good football team, experienced at quarterback and fast skill players. We had some issues … inconsistencies on our part.”

The Bulls fell behind by 19 at the start of the fourth, but two touchdowns cut it down to a six-point game with five minutes left. The Falcons ran out the remaining five minutes however and the Bulls’ offense never got another chance.

In a game against the conference’s best scoring offense, Buffalo did everything in its power to matchup. The Bulls finished with 500 total yards to Bowling Green’s 536. But the yards can only tell so much.

The Bulls played a sloppy game with little success on long drives.

On Buffalo’s first drive, a touchdown reception was negated due to a questionable offensive pass interference call on senior receiver Marcus McGill. McGill said both he and the Falcons cornerback went to make a play but the referee saw McGill push off the cornerback and ultimately called him for the penalty.

Three plays later, the Bulls settled for a field goal and a 7-3 deficit.

Midway through the second quarter, the Bulls drove down to the Bowling Green 20-yard line, but failed to reach the end zone again. The Bulls went for it on fourth and 8 instead of kicking a field goal but failed to convert.

Senior quarterback Joe Licata was intercepted on Buffalo’s first drive of the second half after driving down to the Falcons’ 22-yard line. Licata targeted senior receiver Ron Willoughby, but Licata didn’t recognize Bowling Green had double-teamed his receiver.

In those three drives: 39 plays, 13:56 and just three points scored.

“When the field shrinks down, we have to get as many points as we can,” Leipold said. “We have to execute moving forward. It comes down to making a play, whether it’s a block or a run and they made more plays than we did.”

Licata had a big passing day, finishing with a school record 59 pass attempts. He completed 35 of those attempts for 348 yards with one touchdown and the lone interception. But during the last three weeks, Licata has completed just 58 percent of his passes (73-of-125) for 791 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions.

It was also another strong performance from the Bulls’ skill players. Senior running back Anthone Taylor had 93 rushing yards on 21 carries, while Johnson had 45 yards on 11 carries and a 1-yard touchdown run. McGill missed a touchdown catch, but finished with a career-high eight catches, as well as 88 yards. Willoughby had eight catches for 73 yards, while senior tight end Matt Weiser caught eight passes for 90 yards.

“Our guys came to play,” Licata said. “We did everything out there. Our receivers played well, Ron [Willoughby] had another great game on the outside … we just couldn’t get it done.” For the second week in a row, the defense struggled in the first half and rebounded in the second.

In the first half Saturday, the Buffalo defense couldn’t contain Bowling Green and gave up 360 total yards and three touchdowns.

But in the second half, Buffalo’s defense held the Falcons to just 176 total yards. One of the bigger defensive changes Buffalo made in the second half was putting junior cornerback Boise Ross on Falcons’ sophomore receiver Roger Lewis. Lewis racked up nearly 200 receiving yards in the first half, but just five yards in the second half. Buffalo held Bowling Green senior quarterback Matt Johnson, who led the nation in passing yards coming into the game and had nearly 300 passing yards in Saturday’s first half, to just 44 yards after halftime.

“For one, we played a bit more nickel,” said senior cornerback Marqus Baker, “allowing us to keep an extra defensive back on the field. The second was moving Boise [Ross] over on [Roger] Lewis. After seeing the film on Boise, I think they didn’t want to go near him.”

Last week against Nevada, the Bulls allowed just 99 yards in the second half after allowing 280 in the first half. Buffalo’s first half play has cost them though, as the Bulls have lost both games by less than one possession.

Junior defensive tackle Brandon Crawford, who had two tackles for losses and one sack, said the goal moving forward for the defense is to start strong and play well for four quarters.

“We just need to get pressure on the quarterback,” Crawford said. “If we can get more pressure, more sacks, the quarterback doesn’t have time to get out the pass he wants. We need to work on that.”

After the game and with the Bye Week approaching, Licata summed it up best for the Bulls moving forward.

“With this bye week coming up, there’s going to be a ton of looking in the mirror for everyone to see what we can improve,” Licata.

The Bulls are on a bye week next week, but head to Mount Pleasant, Michigan to take on Central Michigan (2-3, 1-0 MAC) on Saturday, Sept. 17 in Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Quentin Haynes is the senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @Haynes_Spectrum.


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