Historic performances from Oliver, Neutz lead UB in rout
Junior running back Branden Oliver stiff arms a Morgan State defender en route to a historic day. Alexa Strudler /// The Spectrum
Branden Oliver scores one of his two touchdowns in the second quarter. He ran 25 times for a school Division I record 238 yards. Aaron Mansfield /// The Spectrum
From the opening kick off on Saturday night, the stars were out and shining brightly. They donned their normal fluorescent whites, with a noticeable shade of blue.
Junior running back Branden Oliver and junior wide receiver Alex Neutz shone brightest for the Bulls (1-1), setting school Division I records as they routed FCS school Morgan State (1-1), 56-34, Saturday night at UB Stadium.
Oliver did what he does best, pulverizing the Bears early and often. He ran for 92 yards in the first quarter on his way to a school record 238 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Oliver was arguably the most impressive player on the field, almost impossible to take down at times. It seemed to take at least four defenders to take him down.
"I like to pound the ball," Oliver said. "That wears the defense down, so I wasn't getting frustrated."
The Alex-to-Alex connection was flying high yet again Saturday. Junior quarterback Alex Zordich built on the momentum he received from the Georgia game last Saturday and carved up the Bears' secondary. He finished the game 16-for-21 with 237 yards and four touchdowns.
His favorite target stepped up big time, as Neutz caught eight passes and a career-high 154 receiving yards. He also tied a Buffalo record with four touchdowns.
After the first quarter, Neutz toyed with the Morgan State defenders, scoring 21 unanswered points on his own.
Between Oliver and Neutz, the Morgan State defense could not keep up with the Bulls' offense, leading to some incredibly quick scores that led to Morgan State doubling Buffalo's time of possession - 40:10 to 19:50.
There were a few mistakes on the Bulls' part on the offensive end.
Last weekend the Bulls showed incredible discipline, committing only three penalties all game. Against the Bears, they committed five in the first quarter.
"There were 20 penalties in that game. It was kind of sloppy from that stand point," said head coach Jeff Quinn. "But we've got to work on some things. We've got to get back at it tomorrow. We give them 24 hours."
Oliver and the offense more than made up for the penalties, scoring 14 unanswered points after falling behind 3-0 early on.
Buffalo's defense did not look nearly as good as its offense, giving up 34 points to an FCS team. The 'D' played inconsistent all game, allowing the Bears to drive down the field at some points, and then other times shutting them down completely. Much of the Bulls' defensive struggles could be attributed to poor tackling.
"I didn't like the way they scored late in the game," Quinn said. "But we had a guy right at the point of attack and he didn't make the play. It's not a structural error. It's our kids being able to break down, play square and be able to make tackles in open fields situations."
The game changed for the defense when Morgan State pulled quarterback Seth Higgins and put in quarterback Robert Council. The defense appeared to have settled in to a rhythm against Higgins, who was sacked four times for a loss of 32 yards in the game.
Council proved more elusive for junior linebacker Khalil Mack - who amassed 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss - and the Buffalo defense. Council passed for 161 yards and a touchdown and extended plays for the Bears. Running back Travis Davidson was an even bigger threat, rushing for 136 yards and a touchdown exposing some large holes in the Buffalo rush defense.
Mack returned to the field after a one-game suspension and had an immediate impact. On Morgan State's first drive of the game, Mack burst through the line for a key sack that held the Bears to a field goal.
"It was a great feeling to be back with my brothers," Mack said.
The offense showed potential to be one of the best in the Mid-American Conference this season. The Bulls get a chance to prove it next Wednesday when they welcome Kent State (1-1) to UB Stadium for their conference opener.
Buffalo has 11 days to prepare for the Golden Flashes, as the game is scheduled for Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.
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