Bulls defeat Eagles for first time, win fifth-straight home game
Published: Saturday, October 5, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 6, 2013 15:10
On the football team’s first offensive drive of its game against Eastern Michigan on Saturday, senior running back Branden Oliver took a handoff on third and four from the Bulls’ 40-yard line.
He bounced outside and took off down the right sideline for a 60-yard touchdown – the first score of the game.
He essentially ran away with the game.
“That cut that he made was unbelievable,” said sophomore quarterback Joe Licata. “It was like something that [LaDanian Tomlinson] would’ve made back in his prime.”
The touchdown run was the first exclamation point of what was a banner day for the Bulls (3-2, 1-0 Mid-American Conference), as they beat Eastern Michigan (1-4, 0-1 MAC), 42-14, for the first time in school history. The Bulls moved their record to 3-2 for the first time as an FBS team, in front of a homecoming crowd of 23,602 people.
The victory was the Bulls’ fifth straight home win – a school record.
“When we start on somebody that early, I’m just happy first and foremost,” Oliver said. “And I keep telling my teammates, ‘You just can’t let up.’”
The Bulls followed Oliver’s advice.
The defense was nearly air tight – allowing just two touchdowns, one of which came with backups on the field – for the third consecutive game. The offense and special teams units dominated.
Oliver rushed 25 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns. It was his 13th career 100-yard game, tying for the most in school history.
The Bulls jumped on top early, with the offense scoring three times on its first four possessions. When the defense finally allowed an Eastern Michigan score, sophomore running back Devin Campbell answered with a kickoff return for a touchdown – the first time the Bulls had returned a kick for a touchdown since Sept. 20, 2008. The Bulls took a 28-7 lead into halftime.
Licata finished the game 15 of 22 for 224 yards and a touchdown. He was not sacked for the second straight week.
He found seven different receivers, most notably senior wide out Alex Neutz, who had four catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. Oliver also had three catches for 32 yards.
Against an Eagles defense that had held Penn State and Rutgers to a combined two for 18 on third downs, the Bulls converted seven of 13 third downs. Buffalo also outgained Eastern Michigan 452-329 and possessed the ball six-and-a-half minutes longer than the Eagles.
“To beat this team was just another important step for us to accomplish the goals that we set forth for this football team and this season,” said head coach Jeff Quinn.
Despite all the success, there was one stain on the Bulls’ otherwise sterling performance.
In the fourth quarter, on a play in which Eastern Michigan quarterback Brogan Roback found tight end Duwhan Alford for a touchdown, an Eastern Michigan player and a Buffalo player were fighting on the field after the play.
There were two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the play that nullified the touchdown, and four players were ejected. Buffalo junior defensive back Dwellie Striggles and senior defensive backs Tomarris Bell and Okoye Houston and Eastern Michigan’s Dustin Creel were disqualified.
“That’s not who we are; we are disappointed in that,” Quinn said. “I just don’t want people to have that negative opinion of our players.”
After the Bulls’ 41-12 drubbing of UConn (0-4, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) last weekend, their performance Saturday marked the first time since 1981 that Buffalo has recorded back-to-back 40-point performances.
The squad is going on the road for a matchup with Western Michigan (0-5, 0-1 MAC) next weekend. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday.