Falcons bash Bulls
Bowling Green rides defensive effort to shut down Buffalo in Columbus
Published: Saturday, November 24, 2012
Updated: Saturday, November 24, 2012 23:11
While the nation celebrated Black Friday, the football team left its game collectively black and blue.
The Bowling Green (8-4, 6-2 Mid-American Conference) defense stymied the Bulls’ (4-8, 3-5 MAC) offense early and often, as the Falcons pulled off a 21-7 victory at the Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
Bowling Green, which entered the game as the top defensive unit in the MAC, lived up to its ranking, holding an improving Bulls offense to 197 total yards, which included a meager 29 yards rushing. Those totals are impressive considering Buffalo returned its top threats on offense – junior running back Branden Oliver and his counterpart, freshman Devin Campbell.
Their return wasn’t enough for the Bulls. The Falcons’ ‘D’ held Oliver to arguably the worst game of his career, as he gained 20 yards on nine carries.
Freshman quarterback Joe Licata, who won his first three starts, had a hard time getting consistent success through the air. Despite a decent game, finishing 13 for 30 for 168 yards, he was sacked seven times as the Bowling Green defense controlled the line of scrimmage.
The Buffalo offense was also unable to make plays when it counted on third down. The Bulls only completed two out of 15 tries on the day.
“Give credit to Bowling Green,” said head coach Jeff Quinn, who received a contract extension through 2017 last week. “They came in here and had a good game plan. We just couldn’t get into rhythm.”
Alex Neutz had another solid day, as he caught nine passes for 92 yards, which put him over the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the season. He is now the third player in school history to reach that feat, joining Naaman Roosevelt and Drew Haddad. Neutz finished the year with 65 catches, 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Despite the unimpressive numbers on offense, Buffalo’s ‘D’ kept the visitors in the game. The Bulls allowed just 82 yards on the ground and picked off three passes – the first being on the Falcons’ first offensive play of the game.
Junior cornerback Najja Johnson was the culprit, as he picked off a John Pettigrew pass and gave the Bulls decent field position – nevertheless, they couldn’t capitalize. Johnson ended the season on a high note, catching two interceptions in the contest for a total of five on the season.
Junior defensive tackle Colby Way and junior defensive back Adam Redden also had big performances. Way picked off a pass for the first time this season, which led to an Alex Dennison touchdown run from four yards out, bringing the game to 21-7. Redden blocked his second punt this season (in consecutive weeks) early in the contest.
“I was really proud of the way our defense competed today,” Quinn said. “They were prepared and they really delivered some unbelievable performances out of a number of guys.”
After starting off 1-7, the Bulls rallied in the last month and won three out of four games. For the 12 Buffalo seniors, the loss was a rough way to end an up-and-down season.
“I’m proud of our senior class,” Quinn said. “We had some tough games early on, but they hung in there and made sure this team had a lot of fight, a lot of heart, a lot of determination. And that’s what I’m proud of most about that senior class. I know they are hurting in there. But they started something, and now what we have to do is finish it.”
Despite graduating 12 seniors, including talent on the offensive and defensive lines, Buffalo will have most of its talent returning, including Oliver, Way, Neutz and junior linebacker Khalil Mack – who will all be back for their senior season. The Bulls will also have experience at the quarterback position with Licata and junior Alex Zordich.
With a contract extension in tow, Quinn and the Bulls will look to carry their recent momentum into the 2013 season.