The Bulls rode a title wave of offensive power to a 34-20 victory over the University of Connecticut Huskies Saturday afternoon before a sell-out crowd of 16,517 at UConn's Memorial Stadium.
Senior quarterback Joe Freedy and sophomore running back Marquis Dwarte put up big numbers as the Bulls scored 34 unanswered second-half points on their way to their first win on the road since 1998, a streak that spanned 18 games.
"Its nice to actually have a bus ride home where people are smiling," senior offensive lineman Tim Hedges said.
Freedy, who was challenged by Randall Secky for the starting job in practice last week, went 20 for 36 for 218 yards and one touchdown. He passed Chad Salisbury to move in to third place all-time for completions by a UB quarterback.
"[Joe] seemed to be in very good command. He threw a lot of completions in the second half and that's what kept drives alive," said UB Head Coach Jim Hofher.
Dwarte carried the ball 25 times, picking up 150 yards and scoring three touchdowns. He became the first Bulls player to score 3 touchdowns in a game since Derrick Gordon did against Central Michigan in 1999.
"[Marquis] played hard, he played tough," Hofher said.
Hofher, however, was quick to give his offensive line much of the credit.
"They all run the same when there aren't any holes. Now, all of a sudden he is making yards because there were more holes," Hofher said.
"We squarely put a challenge on the shoulders of our offensive linemen at halftime. I think you can see that group responded as well as any, and they're the ones that make a difference in the running game and in the protection game."
"There is no word to describe how [the linemen] played in the second half but complete dominance," said Dwarte. "I had a lot of creases to run through. A lot of the credit has to go to them."
"We were better conditioned. We just kept wearing on them, hitting them and hitting them," Hedges said. "I think they finally broke down when we started scoring all those points."
Dwarte's most impressive run came late in the fourth quarter on a fourth and two, with the game already decided. Coming off a sweep left, he appeared to be going out of bounds, but he quickly broke up-field, made a couple players miss, and broke two more tackles on his way to the end zone from 23 yards out.
"I made a cut and broke a couple arm tackles. Next thing I know I was in the clear, just headed down the sideline for the score," Dwarte said.
UConn began the second half with all the momentum - and a 13-3 lead - following a Hail Mary touchdown pass at the end of the first. The Huskies were in total control, methodically running the ball down the field, but their drive came to a sudden halt when Duane Williams tipped a Keron Henry pass into the hands of linebacker Ryan Buttles for the interception.
"As soon as that interception took place, the offense put drive after drive together. They tired out UConn's defense," Buttles said. "Offense won the game for us."
Following the turnover, Freedy drove Bulls 76 yards before Dwarte scored his first touchdown of the game on a sweep to the right from eight yards out. For the majority of the drive, the Bulls employed a no-huddle offense that had the Huskies gasping for air.
Secky saw limited action in the first half, but was unable to get the UB offense clicking. His first series went three and out, and on his second series he was sacked and fumbled deep in Buffalo territory.
The turnover, however, was not costly for the Bulls, as their defense stepped up and held UConn scoreless on a drive that started on the Buffalo 20-yard line. On fourth and goal from the Bulls one-yard line, Buttles, who was starting in place of the injured Lamar Wilcher, penetrated the line and tripped up Huskie running back Tabor Small to hold him out of the end zone.
"You know they are coming right at you, you just try and find a gap, get in there and get them in the backfield," Buttles said of his stop on fourth and goal.
"The defense had so many phenomenal stops, so many great plays, and they've done it for three straight weeks," Freedy said. "We can't overlook the defense's performance."
Small was stifled by a Buffalo defense that gave up only two first downs in the second half. He finished with 81 yards on 21 carries.
Henry had trouble finding receivers for most of the day, as UB put on heavy pressure throughout the game. He threw just 18 times for seven completions.
Maurice Bradford led the Buffalo receivers with 71 yards on six catches with one touchdown, but was not the only pleasant surprise for the Bulls.
Kicker Dallas Pelz, who had never made a field goal in his college career before Saturday, connected on all three of his attempts.
Buttles and linebacker Bobby Johnson were the standouts of the Buffalo defense. Each picked up an interception. Johnson recorded 10 tackles, while Buttles picked up six of his own - all solo.
"[Buttles] was a warrior out there today, " Hofher said.
Buffalo is home next week to face Mid-American Conference rival Central Michigan at UB Stadium Saturday at 7 p.m.