Bulls cough up upset shot at Ohio
Buffalo plagued by turnovers, falls to Bobcats
Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
UB had a chance to dethrone the Mid-American Conference’s last unbeaten team, its unquestioned forerunner. The Bulls out-dueled their opposition in almost every statistical category – except the one that ended up being most influential: turnovers.
The Bulls (1-4, 0-2 MAC) accounted for 501 total yards of offense, including a bruising 313 yards on the ground, but they surrendered three fumbles, two of which directly resulted in Ohio (6-0, 2-0 MAC) touchdowns. The Bulls couldn’t hang on to an early 14-0 lead, as the Bobcats capitalized and won 38-31 Saturday at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio.
Buffalo came out of the gates firing on all cylinders. After electing to receive, the offense pounded the ball through the Bobcats’ defense on a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive – all via the ground game – to open up the game.
In the first start of his collegiate career, freshman Devin Campbell ran the ball 30 times for 160 yards and a touchdown. Junior quarterback Alex Zordich complemented Campbell’s career game with 110 yards on the ground himself, becoming the first quarterback in Buffalo’s history to rush for over 100 yards, but he struggled through the air – totaling 97 yards and one touchdown and completing 13 of 25 attempts.
Campbell got the nod over junior running back Brandon Murie, who broke out for 109 yards of offense in last week’s game against UConn (3-3, 0-1 Big East) but failed to record a stat against Ohio. Campbell dominated the playing time. Standout junior running back Branden Oliver sat out for the second consecutive game after being injured during the Bulls’ loss to Kent State (4-1, 3-0 MAC).
“It gives me a lot of confidence,” Campbell said. “I’m pretty sure it gives the coaches a lot more confidence to know that when Bo [Oliver] is not in, that I can go in or Murie can go in. Now we have three dangerous people in the backfield and not just one.”
The Davey O’Brien Award – presented to the best collegiate quarterback – candidate Tyler Tettleton, Ohio’s leader, entered the game as one of only six quarterbacks in the country to throw for at least eight touchdowns with zero interceptions. He hadn’t thrown a pick in his last 161 pass attempts. On his first drive against the Bulls’ defense, which had only forced one turnover this season, junior cornerback Najja Johnson picked him off.
Fourteen plays and 93 yards later, the Bulls took an early 14-0 lead after a 10-yard touchdown pass from Zordich to sophomore wide out Devon Hughes.
The Bulls’ momentum was short lived, as Ohio’s Daz’mond Patterson returned the following kickoff 100 yards to put the ’Cats on the board.
Buffalo’s offense didn’t return to form the rest of the first half. In its next six possessions, Buffalo punted the ball four times and lost two fumbles.
“The reason we weren’t able to secure a victory today was the turnovers, penalties in some in-opportune time and obviously they made a big kick return for a touchdown,” said head coach Jeff Quinn.
The turnovers didn’t help defensive coordinator Lou Tepper and his defense, who were given a short field to defend. Ohio’s first two offensive touchdowns came on drives that started on the 14- and 15-yard lines. The field position miscues left the Bulls trailing 21-14 at half.
“[The turnovers] added to the outcome, but I don’t think it changed our attitude,” Zordich said. “We were out there trying to win every play, but you just can’t have mistakes like that. You have a hard time winning a ball game like that.”
The Bulls’ second half was highlighted by another trick play dialed up by gimmick-prone Quinn. A double reverse during their first drive of the second half resulted in junior receiver Alex Neutz catching a 55-yard touchdown pass from junior tight end – and former quarterback – Alex Dennison. The touchdown was Neutz’s seventh of the season, and it ended a 24-0 Ohio run.
With 6:30 left in the game, the Bulls desperately needed a defensive stop as the Bobcats had possession up by a touchdown. But on the second play of the series, Ohio’s Ryan Boykin ran it in from 51 yards out, giving the Bobcats a two-touchdown lead that proved to be insurmountable for the Bulls.
“There are a lot of positives,” Neutz said. “We know we’re a good football team and we can compete with the best teams in the MAC. We feel confident in ourselves. We’ve just got to put it all together for a whole game now.”
Although the Bobcats racked up 38 points, the Bulls’ defense was the first of the season to prevent Ohio’s star back, Beau Blankenship, from rushing for over 100 yards. He finished with 88 yards. Blankenship entered the game as the nation’s third-leading rusher.
“I really feel like our kids have been through a lot and they’re going to continue learning and were going to continue doing what we can to help them win,” Quinn said.
The Bulls have just one win on the road against MAC opponents during the Quinn era. They’ll look to get their first win in the MAC this season on Saturday on the road at Northern Illinois (5-1, 2-0 MAC). Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.