Central Michigan crushes UB Bulls 51-14
Buffalo drops third straight game, second in MAC play
In a span of less than seven minutes in the second quarter Saturday, Central Michigan threw three touchdown passes, blocked Buffalo’s punt that resulted in a safety and intercepted Bulls senior quarterback Joe Licata.
Things didn’t get much better for the Buffalo football team, either.
Central Michigan (3-4, 1-2 Mid-American Conference) defeated the Bulls (2-4, 0-2 MAC) 51-14 loss Saturday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. It was Buffalo’s third consecutive loss and the fourth game in a row it has allowed more than 350 yards of total offense.
“I think they came out and smacked us around a little bit and [we] didn’t respond,” said head coach Lance Leipold. “The wheels came off. Right now, we’re not fighting back fast enough and it’s my job to get them ready.”
During the past three weeks, Leipold has lost half of the amount of games he lost (6) in 115 games at Division-III Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Outside of a touchdown pass from Licata to senior wide receiver Ron Willoughby midway through in the first quarter, the Bulls offense was stagnant and stifled by Central Michigan’s defense. The Bulls finished with a season-low 241 total yards of offense.
The running game was ineffective Saturday after proven consistency this season. Senior running back Anthone Taylor finished with 52 yards on 13 carries, while junior Jordan Johnson had 23 yards on nine carries. The longest run by either back was a 12-yard carry by Taylor in the second quarter.
After the game, Leipold expressed unease over the running game and revealed that Taylor was limping near the end of the game.
“I’m very, very concerned at the moment,” Leipold said. “We’re not giving [Taylor] the chances. We’re not giving him enough opportunities to do anything with the ball. And then he gets hurt.”
The severity of Taylor’s injury is unclear.
The Bulls finished had four turnovers – two interceptions and two fumbles – that allowed Central Michigan to convert Buffalo mistakes into points. Licata and senior quarterback Tony Daniel each threw an interception, while sophomore receiver Collin Lisa and freshman running back Jonathan Hawkins each had a fumble.
It was the third consecutive game in a row where the Bulls lost the turnover battle. Between those three games, the Bulls have lost the turnover battle 8-1.
Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush finished with 313 passing yards and four touchdowns while completing 23 of 30 passes. The running game, led by Martez Walker, ran for 150 yards and three scores.
Throughout the season, the Bulls have struggled to pressure the quarterback as they rank in the middle of the conference with 11 sacks. Saturday was no different, as the Bulls had just one sack on the day, a bull rush from junior defensive tackle Brandon Crawford. Rush often threw with little to no pressure from the front four of Buffalo.
Crawford said after the game he was surprised about the level of play that the Central Michigan offensive line played with.
“We’re having trouble at the moment,” Leipold said. “When we can’t get pressure with four, we have to bring more guys. Quarterbacks like him know how to attack defenses when they have time. They were throwing bubble screen after bubble screen and we weren’t getting up to them fast enough.”
Licata finished with 13 of 25 passing for 133 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception. After throwing 29 touchdown passes a year ago, Licata has just eight midway through this season.
Daniel came into the game and finished with 1 of 2 passing for 16 yards and one interception.
After losing by 37 points, Licata called the team’s performance “unacceptable” and said this moment provides a “fork in the road.”
“There’s two options now, we can either go up or go down,” Licata said. “We need to do a real gut check and look at ourselves in the mirror. Coach Leipold challenged us to work for Monday’s practice and I hope we have the guys in here to accept that challenge. I think we do.”
The Bulls will return home to host Ohio (5-2, 2-1 MAC) on Saturday, Oct. 24 at UB Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Haynes_Spectrum