UB football loses to Ball State 31-21

Bulls collapse in second half


With just over three minutes left in the third quarter, Ball State sophomore running back James Gilbert broke away from Buffalo’s defense on an 80-yard rush.

After failing to capitalize on their best start of the year, the Buffalo Bulls (1-5, 0-2 Mid-American Conference) fell to the Ball State Cardinals (4-3, 1-2 MAC) 31-21, in front of 16,092 people at UB Stadium Saturday. Gilbert had 264 yards along with two touchdowns and led the Cardinals. Sophomore quarterback Riley Neal also contributed two rushing touchdowns for Ball State as well as 212 yards in the air.

“We were up 14-7 at half, defense made a great play to go in but that cant be it,” said Buffalo freshman quarterback Tyree Jackson. “You can’t be up 14-7 and be like ‘we can relax, we’ll be alright’ you gotta keep pushing each play and I think we, I don’t wanna say we relaxed but we didn’t rise to the occasion and put our foot on their throat.”

For the first time this season, the Bulls managed to get off to a hot start. Entering the game with only one first half touchdown all season, the Bulls had two in the first half. They both came on touchdown passes from Jackson. Jackson finished the day with career highs in both yards and touchdowns with 306 yards and three touchdowns in the air, as well as 64 yards on the ground.

Saturday was Jackson’s first 300-yard game of his career as well as the first time a Buffalo freshman quarterback eclipsed the 300-yard mark in program history. Senior running back Jordan Johnson, who finished with 76 yards, has now passed Tom Roth for 10th in all-time rushing at UB.

This was the first game this season that Buffalo has led entering halftime.

The Bulls forced a turnover on downs on their first defensive drive after half but stumbled on the next allowing Neal to score on a keeper. After a big stop on fourth down a couple drives later, Buffalo took over on the Ball State 36 with their best chance to gain back control of the game.

Jackson found senior receiver Malcolm Robinson in the end zone on the first play after the turnover, but the play was called back for an illegal formation penalty on Buffalo.

Three plays later, Buffalo punted the ball setting up for Gilbert’s 80-yard touchdown run. The Bulls never got within 10 again.

With Ball State’s 356-rushing-yard night, Buffalo has now given up 340 or more rushing yards in four games this season. Buffalo struggled and allowed 258 of those rushing yards in the final half alone.

This is also the third game of the year that a Buffalo opponent had a rusher with over 150 yards.

The cardinals had 568 total yards in the game. Buffalo has allowed at least 400 yards of total offense in every game except the season opener against Albany. The Bulls have given up a total of 1,398 yards in their past three games.

“They definitely gashed us and it was disappointing that we couldn’t slow them down,” said Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold.

The Bulls went for it on fourth down four times Saturday. They only converted once, but that conversion set up Robinson’s 13-yard touchdown catch. Two of Buffalo’s first three drives after halftime ended on failed fourth down conversion, both fourth-and-one quarterback keepers.

“I’ll take the blame on those, no matter what I feel like I should get the first down,” Jackson said.

Leipold defended his quarterback saying the call was the problem so the mistake is on him. The first missed conversion was on the Ball State 25-yard line.

“I made a mistake, I should have went for the points and tried to put us ahead by two scores on the first one and that’s on me and I put our guys in a very bad position,” Leipold said.

The Bulls enter next week still searching for their first conference win when they visit the Northern Illinois Huskies (1-5, 1-1 MAC). Kickoff is at 3:30 pm.

Daniel Petruccelli is a sports staff writer and can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com