Bulls fall victim to Arch nemesis
The Kent State defense swarmed Buffalo's previously impressive offense Wednesday night, limiting the Bulls to just one touchdown. Nick Fischetti /// The Spectrum
After Buffalo scored 79 points in its first two games, the most since 1959, the "Sea of Blue" was calm on Wednesday night. Hopeful fans quietly exited UB Stadium after the football team's Mid-American Conference opener.
The Bulls (1-2, 0-1 MAC) failed to get their offense rolling against Kent State (2-1, 1-0 MAC) amid their worst offensive performance of the year. The Golden Flashes' pounding running attack led them to a 23-7 victory on the road.
"It's frustrating, a very disappointing loss," said head coach Jeff Quinn. "It's not about the losing. It's the way we didn't play, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I just expected us to play a lot better. Give Kent State credit; they came in here and won a football game."
After a scoreless first quarter, running back Dri Archer opened the second with an electric 57-yard run. A few plays later he capped off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown on a reverse. Archer finished the game with 159 yards on 16 touches, racking up 9.1 yards per carry.
Buffalo ultimately had no answer for the Kent State ground game that rushed for 239 yards on 53 carries, as the Golden Flashes possessed the ball for 37:30 minutes of the game.
Archer and his counterpart in the backfield, Trayion Durham, accounted for 319 of the team's 404 yards of total offense. Durham recorded a new career-high, carrying the ball 23 times for 113 yards.
Buffalo's single highlight came with five seconds left in the first half. The Bulls stood on Kent State's 46-yard line, anticipating entering the half down 10-0. But a Hail Mary reception by junior wide receiver Alex Neutz as time expired brought the Bulls within a field goal.
Entering the week, Neutz was tied for first in the nation with five touchdowns after his stunning four-touchdown game against Morgan St. last week.
"It was a tremendous lift," Quinn said of the Hail Mary. "It brought us within a few points, but we could not muster up enough offense, or a rhythm or a flow, to keep our defense [off the field]."
But the story of the game was the absence of junior running back Branden Oliver, who came out of the tunnel after halftime aided by his father. Oliver missed the remainder of the game with a leg injury. His future status was uncertain when this edition went to print. UB Athletics plans to release an update sometime Friday. Oliver was the brunt of the Bulls' offense for the first half with 16 carries for 77 yards, on his way to another 100-yard affair.
Oliver came into the game ranked 12th in the country in rushing, averaging 174.5 yards a game.
The star running back was not the only Bull plagued by injury. Junior wide receiver Fred Lee and senior defensive lineman Steven Means left the game in the first half with hand and head injuries, respectively.
Things didn't get much better in the second half. Junior quarterback Alex Zordich finished the game having completed only 4 of 22 passes for 92 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
"I expect more out of myself to help this team win," Zordich said. "Offensively, we just weren't making plays, and it showed out there. We weren't able to help out our defense. They were putting us in great positions to go ahead and win the game. Offensively, we just weren't there today."
The Bulls held the Flashes to 23 points despite four offensive turnovers. Aside from a last-minute touchdown after an interception by redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Licata, the Buffalo defense was again unable to keep Kent State out of the end zone.
Junior linebacker Khalil Mack disrupted the Flashes backfield throughout the game. Mack led the team with eight tackles, including two sacks, and four tackles for a loss.
The Bulls have over a week off before they travel to Hartford, Conn. to face a solid UConn Huskies (2-1) team. The game is set for Sept. 29 at 12 p.m.
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