Bulls Officially Out of Bowl Contention
ATHENS, OHIO – The threat facing the football team on Thursday night was readily apparent from the first offensive play from scrimmage. The team had to go up against two athletic quarterbacks at the same time.
On that first play, Ohio redshirt senior quarterback Boo Jackson handed the ball off to redshirt junior quarterback Phil Bates, who rushed for an 11-yard gain.
After about 11 minutes had ticked off of the clock, the Bobcats ran the same exact play, except when Bates got the ball from Jackson, he stopped in his tracks, planted his feet, and threw the ball down the left sideline to a sprinting Jackson, who caught the ball for his first career receiving touchdown.
Just like that, Ohio was leading 14-0, and the first quarter hadn't ended yet.
The Bobcats (7-3, 5-1 Mid-American Conference) defeated the Bulls (2-7, 1-4 MAC) on Ohio senior night, 34-17. The Bulls' early-game woes continue, as they have now been outscored 75-3 in the first quarter this season. Though the hope of qualifying for a bowl game was far-fetched at best, it is now gone; Buffalo's seventh loss officially disqualifies the team from bowl contention.
Jackson passed for 175 yards and two touchdowns and completed the rare feat of passing, rushing, and receiving for a touchdown.
Bulls head coach Jeff Quinn said that it was a tough task going against the dual threat at quarterback.
"You've got to defend them all, and certainly when you have two athletic kids out there that pose a throw, and a run, and a catch situation... that's a great thing to have weapon-wise from an offensive standpoint," Quinn said.
Quinn, who has been talking of late about getting back to basics and fundamentals, can't be happy with some of the decisions that his own quarterback, freshman Alex Zordich, made in the first half. Before halftime, Zordich committed three turnovers, one of which was a key interception early in the second quarter as the Bulls were threatening inside Ohio territory.
The weight of the loss can't be placed solely on Zordich's shoulders, however.
The freshman gunslinger, who went 8-for-26 with 84 yards and a touchdown, played well at times. He especially showed that he is a legitimate threat on the ground, as he rushed 20 times for 59 yards and a touchdown. Additionally, junior wide receivers Marcus Rivers and Terrell Jackson dropped numerous long Zordich passes that could have served as game-changers.
"We need to come down with [the ball]," Quinn said. "[Ohio's] kid had the ball in his hands, and he came down with it, and they were able to capitalize on points."
Quinn said that he used Zordich in the running game because of the quarterback's ability to move the chains in the air and on the ground.
"[Zordich] is a big kid," Quinn said. "I felt that he was both effective in the run game and in the throw game. He's got to have other guys around him that play at that same level."
For a team trying to play fundamental football and eliminate mistakes, the Bulls also hurt themselves with penalties at key moments. In the second quarter, the Bobcats faced a 3rd-and-14 from the Bulls' 15-yard line. Instead of holding Ohio to a field goal attempt, the Bulls gave them a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line after senior linebacker Justin Winters committed a pass interference penalty in the end zone.
Such mistakes were also key in determining field position, a statistic that the Bobcats dominated.
Ohio began its first scoring drive on its own 40-yard line as a result of Buffalo senior kicker John Rachuna kicking the ball out of bounds on the first play of the game. As a result of Bulls turnovers and missed field goals, the Bobcats' average starting field position in the first half was at their own 40-yard line, while the Bulls' average start was at their own 27 during the same stretch.
Though the Bulls kept the game interesting in the second half by coming within 10 points of Ohio in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats managed to hold on.
It wasn't all bad news for the Bulls. Sophomore defensive end Steven Means recorded his first career interception and also recovered an Ohio fumble.
Next up for the Bulls is a home matchup with Ball State (2-7, 1-4 MAC) next Friday. The game, which will be broadcasted on ESPNU, is set to begin at 6 p.m. at UB Stadium.