MAC woes continue
Buffalo fails to finish late-game comeback
Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
With two minutes left in the fourth quarter, a new face tried to reverse the Bulls’ fortunes. Redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Licata was at the helm in relief of struggling junior Alex Zordich. Licata was playing well and had a chance to lead his team to victory – an ideal situation for a struggling team that was looking for its first win against an FBS school since defeating Akron on Nov. 19, 2011.
After a successful 16-yard completion to junior wide receiver Fred Lee on the first play of the drive, Licata was sacked and fumbled, turning the ball over and icing the game. Toledo took a knee, and the Bulls’ losing streak extended.
Buffalo (1-7, 0-4 Mid-American Conference) hosted Toledo (8-1, 5-0 MAC) in the second game of its four-game home stand. The Bulls seemed to have a shot at an upset as they led Toledo 14-7 at the half. But it was once again a tale of two halves, as the Rockets’ offense exploded and defense pulled through late to take the game 25-20.
After Zordich struggled in the second half, Licata took over late in the third quarter in monsoon-like conditions and immediately led the Bulls on a seven-play, 73-yard drive that concluded with an eight-yard touchdown toss to junior wide receiver Alex Neutz.
“I think Alex [Zordich] was a bit shaken up,”Quinn said. “Watching [Joe] command the offense right in the beginning of the fourth quarter being able to put that score in there, we did a nice job with him.”
It was Licata’s second touchdown pass of the season.
“I’m used to [the weather] from being here,” said Licata, who played at local Williamsville South High School. “So the [conditions] weren’t a factor today.”
Zordich threw a beautiful 42-yard pass to freshman Devin Campbell to go up 14-7 in the first half, but that was his only highlight of the day.
Neutz (chest), Lee (left hand) and junior running back Branden Oliver (grade-two torn left MCL) returned from injuries. Neutz had the most productive day offensively with six receptions for 135 yards. Oliver didn’t find the end zone, but he had another strong performance with 101 yards on 24 carries.
“Bo’s efforts have never been questioned by anybody,”Quinn said. “It was a nice spark to have him back in. You saw him hit some really nice runs, and another thing you saw was some great blocking that he does. Our kids were excited to see one of their teammates back.”
After going six straight quarters without scoring an offensive touchdown, the Rockets’ offense exploded in the third. Running back David Fluellen slashed through a seemingly shocked Bulls defense.
Toledo had 243 yards of offense in the third quarter alone; 144 came from Fluellen. The running back scored two of the Rockets’ three touchdowns in that quarter – both coming on Toledo’s first two drives.
Fluellen’s second-half effort undid Buffalo’s solid defensive performance in the first half. The Bulls snatched two interceptions in the opening half – including a 23-yard “pick six” – by sophomore defensive back Courtney Lester off Toledo quarterback Terrence Owens – for the first touchdown of the game.
“We saw a couple turnovers,”Quinn said. “That was huge in the game. For us to be able to get that going in the direction for us, [it] was big. We just weren’t able to complete the mission today.”
Toledo’s offense was held to just 115 yards in the first half before it ignited for a 297-yard second half performance. The offensive performance allowed the Rockets to overcome their special teams struggles – one missed field goal and three failed extra point attempts.
Senior defensive end Steven Means, who blocked two extra points, was frustrated after the game.
“I shouldn’t have had two blocked extra points,”Means said. “They shouldn’t have scored.”
The Bulls will keep trying for a win next Saturday as they play host to MAC rival Miami Ohio (4-4, 3-1 MAC). Kickoff is slated for 12 p.m.