Lucky No. 7
Bulls down Bobcats, 30-3, in seventh consecutive victory
In Buffalo football's biggest game in years, its stars delivered a massive blow in their last game at UB Stadium - as they have all season.
In front of a national audience on ESPN2, senior receiver Alex Neutz caught two touchdown passes (tying Naaman Roosevelt's career school record of 28), senior running back Branden Oliver rushed for 249 yards (a school Division 1A record) and senior linebacker Khalil Mack forced and recovered a fumble and recorded a safety.
The Bulls (7-2, 5-0 Mid-American Conference) beat Ohio 30-3, extending their win streak to seven, the longest since 1959. The last time UB won seven games in a row in one season was in 1897.
"Up until this point, this is a big one," said head coach Jeff Quinn when asked if Tuesday night's win was the biggest of his time at UB. "We knew that this has been a team that we had to look at and say, 'If we want to take our next step toward that ultimate goal, we had to do it in our stadium tonight.'"
A crowd of 22,918 watched the Bulls' home finale and their seventh straight win at UB Stadium.
In the second quarter, Mack's forced turnover led to an Oliver touchdown and a 7-0 Bulls lead. Early in the third, Mack sacked Ohio (6-3, 3-2 MAC) quarterback Tyler Tettleton for a safety, increasing the lead to 9-3 and, on the ensuing possession, Oliver ran for his second touchdown of the day.
The latter of Mack's two highlight plays came with some controversy, however. Tettleton's safety was called on intentional grounding, though he was clearly not in the end zone (and instead was around the 5-yard line) when releasing the ball. The refs deemed the spot of the foul non-reviewable.
"That wasn't going to be the play that changed the outcome of this game," Quinn said. "We took full advantage of every opportunity that presented itself in tonight's game and that was one of them."
The Bulls silenced the critics and took the blame off the MAC refs - scoring three more touchdowns after the safety to bury the Bobcats. Buffalo continues to hold sole possession of first place in the MAC East.
Mack added three quarterback hits and constantly pressured the Ohio backfield. He is now one forced fumble shy of tying the NCAA's all-time career forced fumble mark (14) that is shared by five players, including former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs.
Buffalo held the MAC's third-highest-scoring offense touchdown-less and limited it to just 233 total yards. Tettleton, the MAC's second-leading passer (253.6 passing yards per game), threw for 126 yards.
"We had been hearing a lot what [Ohio] wanted to do to us offensively," Mack said. "Today we responded to it. That's the type of defense we have here."
Oliver's explosive running was once again the catalyst for the Bulls' offense - they has scored at least 30 points in their last six victories. Oliver ran for 243 yards, breaking his own school Division IA record for yards in a game, and two touchdowns. His numbers since the start of MAC play are astonishing - he's rushed for at least 128 yards every game and is averaging 184.4 yards per game.
Neutz had four catches for 79 yards and sophomore quarterback Joe Licata threw for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
"We should've beat them by more because we had a slow first half," Neutz said of the Bulls' 7-3 lead at half. "We expect to win, [but by] 27, yeah, that's pretty good."
Licata remained efficient, despite throwing an interception that was the Bulls' first turnover in conference play. After the game, he compared this team's success to Quinn's 2006 Central Michigan team that won the MAC.
"Coach Quinn got a ring that year and we're trying to get another one now," Licata said.
The Bulls' stretch of tough opponents continues next week. Ohio was their toughest conference opponent thus far, but Toledo (6-3, 4-1 MAC) will trump that when it hosts the Bulls next Tuesday for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.