Bulls defeat Massachusetts for fifth straight victory
Oliver, Mack lead Buffalo to victory
The football team had dominated in its past three games. The Bulls' starters hadn't played in the fourth quarter, as they had blown out opponents 116-26.
On Saturday, it took a bit longer to bury Massachusetts.
The Bulls entered the game as 21-point favorites - the largest margin in school history. They covered the spread and ousted the Minutemen (1-6, 1-2 Mid-American Conference), 32-3, on Saturday in front of 18,707 at UB Stadium.
Senior running back Branden Oliver broke UB's career rushing record, senior linebacker Khalil Mack had his second pick-six of the season and the Bulls (5-2, 3-0 MAC) extended their winning streak to five.
"It felt great [to achieve the record], but when it happened, I told everyone that that's not the goal and we have to get this 'W,'" Oliver said.
Oliver led an otherwise-lackluster offense with 216 yards on a school record 43 carries. He passed Green Bay Packer James Starks as the program's career rushing leader with 3,203 yards.
"I don't know if we'll be able to let [Oliver] carry 43 times every week, but if he gets 216 yards and we keep winning, we'll certainly keep that as part of the game plan," said head coach Jeff Quinn.
The win ties the program's longest win streak in the modern Division I era and it extends a record six consecutive wins at UB Stadium.
The Bulls' offense didn't score until early in the fourth quarter, but Mack got them on the board in the second. His 35-yard interception return for a touchdown gave Buffalo a 10-0 lead that proved to be the game-winning score.
"[Mack] is worth the price of every ticket in that stadium," Quinn said. "He's been blessed with some skill level that very few people possess ... in my 30 years of coaching, he's the best player."
The play gave a boost to the Bulls, who had just witnessed two devastating injuries. Senior offensive lineman Jasen Carlson suffered a season-ending leg injury and was carted off the field. The following play, senior receiver Alex Neutz almost came down with a 40-yard grab before taking a hit to the head and dropping the ball - he left the game with a concussion.
Senior receiver Fred Lee filled in as the Bulls' No. 1 receiver and was a quality replacement for the Bulls' star receiver. Lee caught a career-high eight passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.
But as has been the case in weeks past, the Bulls' defense demonstrated complete dominance.
The 'D' kept the Minutemen out of the end zone, allowed just 247 yards of offense, forced three turnovers, six punts and a safety.
"It's a great feeling to be where we're at and know that we have a defense that we can rely upon to keep people out of the end zone," Quinn said.
Senior Adam Redden led the unit with 12 tackles (two tackles for loss) and a fumble recovery and Mack finished with three tackles (two tackles for loss), an interception and a sack - which tied him for the school record (24).
Mack's two tackles for loss give him 66 in his career, which is the third most in NCAA history.
Sophomore quarterback Joe Licata threw for 167 yards and a touchdown and has now thrown a score in each of the Bulls' seven games.
Junior kicker Pat Clarke made 3 of 4 field goals with a long of 44 yards.
The schedule picks up from here, as four of the Bulls' final five opponents entered the season as legitimate conference contenders. Buffalo needs just one win in those games to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2008.
Lee said the offense needs to get off to a faster start next week but also took time to commend the Bulls' 'D.'
"The defense scored more points than we did in the first half," Lee said. "We practice against them every day in practice and they are the best team we go against every week. I hate going against [the first-team defense] in practice."
Neutz's status for next week is unknown, as is the status of senior defensive end Colby Way, who also left Saturday's game.
Next Saturday, the Bulls travel to Kent State (2-6, 1-2 MAC). Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.