UB football upsets Akron 41-20

Bulls defeat Akron on a wet Thursday night


On Thursday night, senior running back Jordan Johnson finally looked like the unstoppable force many expected him to be when coming into the season.

The senior running back set a program record with 282 rushing yards as well as finding the end zone twice, as the Buffalo Bulls (2-6, 1-3 Mid-American Conference) came away with the 41-20 upset win against the Akron Zips (5-4, 3-2 MAC) on a wet Thursday night at UB Stadium. Buffalo snapped their four-game losing streak as they secured their first conference victory of the season.

“[Running backs] coach [Matt] Simon tells us he needs us to get north and south and he needs us to run downhill,” Johnson said. “So that’s honestly all coaching… he doesn’t like us juking and jiving. He wants us to run downhill, run somebody over.”

Johnson dominated Akron’s defense all night as he broke off big play after big play, including a career long 61-yard touchdown rush in the second quarter. He looked explosive around the edge and was reading the defense well. Buffalo’s offensive line controlled the trenches throughout the game and were a big part of Johnson’s success as well.

Johnson has had a tough couple of weeks but was able to get things back on track. He had more yards Thursday than he’s had in the last five games. Leipold knows Johnson’s attitude is a big part of what helped him turn things around.

“Jordan’s remained positive, he continues to mature, he’s become a consistent leader in our program,” said Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold. “[He] comes in the day after every game on his own, goes in the running back room and watches film. I’m a firm believer in if you stay positive and keep working hard, things work out.”

Freshman quarterback Tyree Jackson had a couple long completions but wasn’t consistent. He was 7-of-21 in the game for 140 yards and a pick. But he was able to use his feet and finished with 60 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, including a 38-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that put Buffalo up 27-13.

The offensive line has faced some issues figuring out a lineup, but after starting the same group for the last four games, Buffalo has started to get things figured out. Jackson noted how the offensive line stepped up this week.

“At this point in the season, we were just like we’ve had enough,” Jackson said. “We just gotta be able to start running the ball and we gotta start being able to move people and control the line of scrimmage. Our offensive line really took that to heart and they did a great job tonight.”

Buffalo’s defense came out to play and looked aggressive all game. After being gashed in the run game all year, they only allowed 128 rushing yards Thursday. The defensive line had their best performance of the year and pressured Akron junior quarterback Thomas Woodson all game. Senior defensive end Brandon Crawford played big and finished with a sack and two tackles for loss.

“Me, [junior defensive end] Demone [Harris], and the rest of the guys on the defensive line, were just playing hard,” Crawford said. “We came out and we decided that if we made them throw the ball than we gotta get pressure on them and that’s what we did as a defensive unit and a defensive line. And once you have four guys in your face every time you get ready to try and throw the ball it’s gonna throw you off your game.”

Buffalo scored touchdowns on two consecutive drives to break the tie and put themselves up 17-3. The second was Johnson’s 61-yard run. He went toward the edge, took one cut back in through quality blocking and outran the Zips defense for 61 yards. Junior safety Tim Roberts picked off a long ball on the next drive and gave the Bulls a chance to get further in control before half.

Akron slowed the momentum when they forced Buffalo to punt on the following drive, and senior receiver JoJo Natson returned the punt 79 yards for a touchdown and put the Zips within seven, making the score 17-10 right before half.

The Bulls answered with a five play, 50-yard drive in 26 seconds to set up a field goal for sophomore kicker Adam Mitcheson. He made the 28-yard kick and put the bulls up two possessions going into half.

After a slow third quarter, the Bulls scored on three straight drives to begin the final quarter.

With senior cornerback Boise Ross out with an injury, sophomore cornerback Tatum Slack had a big game as his replacement. His biggest play of the day was a fourth down sack off a corner blitz with 5:44 remaining that essentially ended any hope Akron had at a comeback.

“We’re behind him 100 percent, we know what he’s capable of doing because we constantly see what he’s doing at practice, I’m sorry what happened with Boise but you know I’m proud of Slack and how he played,” Roberts said.

They will look to carry this momentum into next Thursday when they visit the MAC East Division leader Ohio Bobcats. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

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