Bowling Green dominates second half, shatters UB's MAC title hopes
Falcons shut down Buffalo ‘O,’ advance to conference title game
This game was decided during halftime. We do not know what happened within each team's locker room, but it is clear that the Bowling Green Falcons came out of the break ready to battle in their most important game of the season to date, and the University at Buffalo Bulls did not.
It cost Buffalo a shot at the MAC title.
UB led 7-3 at the half, but Bowling Green dominated the second half to win 24-7 in front of an announced 26,226 (paid attendance) at Ralph Wilson Stadium. This game was essentially a Mid-American Conference semifinal, and the Falcons (9-3, 7-1 MAC) advanced to the championship game to face No. 18 Northern Illinois Dec. 6.
Buffalo (8-4, 6-2 MAC) was 8-0 when leading at the half this season until its collapse on Black Friday. It was the squad's lowest scoring output of the year.
The game marked Senior Day, as it was the final home game for a historic senior class, which includes standouts and program record-holders like Khalil Mack, Branden Oliver, Alex Neutz and Colby Way. There is a chance those seniors will play one more game in a Buffalo uniform, as the team's eight-win season makes it bowl eligible. The Bulls last played in the postseason in the 2009 International Bowl. Bowl invitations go out Sunday, Dec. 8.
Though the game was played 30 minutes from UB Stadium, in Orchard Park, it still counted as a home game. This was the first college football game played at Ralph Wilson since 1979.
Passing, rushing - nothing worked for UB against the Falcons. The Bulls' offense struggled all afternoon and finished with 236 total yards. Bowling Green racked up 490.
Mack, a linebacker, finished with 2.5 tackles for loss, which makes him tied for the all-time NCAA record (with Jason Babin).
Bowling Green dominated the first quarter, and though it led only 3-0, the Falcons appeared to be clearly in command. The second quarter, however, belonged to Buffalo.
The Bulls' defense came alive for the quarter, absolutely shutting down the Bowling Green offense that looked so prolific in the first quarter.
Sophomore quarterback Joe Licata and the offense pieced together one impressive drive - nine plays, 66 yards, 3:19 - which senior running back Branden Oliver capped with a two-yard touchdown run off the right side. He scooted untouched into the end zone on third and goal, and Buffalo took its 7-3 lead, and the momentum, into the locker room.
Oliver, UB's all-time leading rusher who broke his own single-season record Friday, finished with a meager 46 yards on 18 carries - an average of 2.6 yards per carry. It was no secret Buffalo counted on its running game to get the offense started, and Bowling Green keyed in on stopping it. Buffalo is 6-0 when it rushes for 200 yards or more.
When Oliver and company failed to get started, everything fell out of place. Bowling Green pushed the Bulls around in the second half in a fashion no team had achieved since Baylor in Week Two (the No. 9 Bears defeated Buffalo, 70-13).
BG's two touchdown-scoring drives in the third quarter were prolific and completely flattened UB's swagger. The first went 71 yards in six plays and 2:00. The second started on its own 7-yard line, but the offense came out firing when quarterback Matt Johnson scrambled 54 yards on a naked bootleg. The drive went 93 yards in seven plays and 4:23.
Shaun Joplin (23-yard pass from Johnson), Travis Greene (14-yard run) and Johnson (seven-yard run) scored the Bowling Green touchdowns, respectively.
Bowling Green will play Northern Illinois Friday, Dec. 6, for the conference title. Buffalo will wait to find out its fate on selection day.
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