Akron downs UB Bulls 42-21

Buffalo stuck at five wins heading into season finale


After Saturday’s game, the Buffalo football team is still one win away from bowl eligibility.

“I felt very confident heading into today and I thought we were ready to play,” said senior quarterback Joe Licata, “but as the game showed, we weren’t ready to play.”

Akron (6-5, 4-3 Mid-American Conference) defeated the Bulls (5-6, 3-4 MAC) 42-21 at InfoCision Stadium - Summa Field Saturday, which sets up an all-important season finale against Massachusetts next week for Buffalo. The Bulls will try for their sixth win of the season, which could mean a bowl invite.

Without a win next week, Buffalo will not be eligible for a bowl game, as teams must have at least six wins. There will be 41 bowl games this season, which means 82 of the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams will get an invite.

The Zips had the game sealed halfway through the third quarter. Akron, already holding a 35-14 lead, intercepted Licata in the end zone as the Bulls were attempting a comeback.

And for the second straight week, the Bulls fell behind early and were mauled by their own mistakes.

Buffalo trailed 14-0 in the first quarter after two touchdown passes from Akron sophomore quarterback Thomas Woodson, one of which was set up by a junior running back Jordan Johnson fumble. The Bulls had three turnovers on the day, as Licata threw two interceptions as well.

“We turned the ball over which you can’t do, they had good ball security, we didn’t and they had a ton of guys wide open on the outside and we didn’t,” said head coach Lance Leipold.

Akron’s early start was indicative of what would happen for the remainder of the game, as the Zips’ offense continued to move up and down the field on the Buffalo defense.

After allowing 524 yards against Northern Illinois (8-3, 6-1 MAC) last week, the Buffalo defense allowed 475 total yards and six touchdowns – four in the air, two on the ground – to Akron Saturday. It was the sixth time this season the Bulls allowed more than 350 total yards in a game.

Senior linebacker Nick Gilbo said the defense couldn’t put together a stop when needed and that was the difference in the game.

“We could never just stop the bleeding,” Gilbo said. “Every time our offense gave us a chance with putting a score together, we would allow them to get back down the field. It was disappointing. We should’ve been able to stop it.”

Leipold said Akron stopped the Buffalo “A-gap blitz” and Akron adjusted, which allowed Woodson to throw without much pressure. Buffalo finished with seven tackles for losses, but zero sacks, something Leipold called a “problem.”

There were also positives on Buffalo’s end. Senior running back Anthone Taylor finally looked completely healthy and ran for 98 yards – his highest total since Week Three against Florida Atlantic. Senior wide receiver Ron Willoughby had a season-high 11 catches for 105 yards, while junior wide receiver Marcus McGill had seven catches for 80 yards and a touchdown.

Taylor healthy is a good sign for Buffalo heading into next week’s game against Massachusetts (2-9, 1-5 MAC).

The Bulls return home for their final game of the 2015 regular season on Friday. It will be the final game at UB Stadium in the career of Licata, who is UB’s all-time touchdown passes leader and a Buffalo native that attended local high school Williamsville South.

“It’s our championship game. That’s how we have to approach it,” Licata said. “If we don’t win Friday, it’s our last game. We have to treat like a high school sectional [or] championship game. You don’t get another one.”

Friday’s game is set for 4:30 p.m.

Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Haynes_Spectrum.