Flawless in four: Bulls defeat Rutgers 42-13 to continue best FBS start in history

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For the first time in Football Bowl Subdivision history, UB football is 4-0.

The Bulls traveled to Piscataway, New Jersey to play the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-3, 0-1 Big Ten) Saturday afternoon. Buffalo only needed 30 minutes to pull off the monumental victory. Junior quarterback Tyree Jackson continued the best season of his collegiate career to lead the Bulls to a 35-6 halftime lead and eventual 42-13 victory.

It was Buffalo’s first-ever win against the Big Ten conference.

“It’s nice to see the work these guys have done, the tough times that the upperclassmen have been through to see them start to have it pay off,” head coach Lance Leipold said. We have a long ways left to go this season but we’re awfully proud of where they’re at.”

It has been a historic season for the Bulls. Senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson was named the first preseason All-American in school history, while six Bulls were named to award watchlists.

Buffalo only needs two more wins to reach bowl eligibility after they were snubbed from competing in a bowl game last season having gone 6-6.

The Bulls were second in the East Division in the Mid-American Conference preseason media poll. Buffalo exceeded expectations, averaging over 40 points and 428 yards of offense per game. One month into the season, they remain the only undefeated team in the MAC.

The Bulls started slow. Buffalo received the opening kickoff and Rutgers forced a punt just 31 seconds later. Rutgers capitalized and kicked a field goal to take its lone lead of the afternoon.

The three points are the only allowed by Buffalo in the first quarter this season.

With 6:22 remaining in the first quarter, the Bulls took over. A 42-yard pass from Jackson to Johnson gave UB a 7-3 lead.

Buffalo regained possession three plays later. A six-play, 73-yard drive increased the lead to 14-3. The drive was capped off with a 42-yard rush by freshman running back Jaret Patterson. Patterson led the Bulls in rushing yards. He finished with 14 rushes for 104 yards and two touchdowns. 

“Right now I have a small role and have to take advantage of my opportunities,” Patterson said.

Patterson and redshirt-freshman Kevin Marks have been getting more snaps each week. The duo has combined for eight touchdowns and 457 yards this season. Offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki has utilized a running back by committee system this season. Junior running back Emmanuel Reed is listed as number one on the depth chart but only had one carry.

Rutgers scored its final points of the half on a 34-yard field goal with 13:13 remaining. The Bulls defense stiffened up and forced four straight three-and-out possessions. The Scarlet Knights ran 12 plays for 13 yards across the four drives.

While Rutgers’ freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski could not gain a first down, the Bulls scored three touchdowns.

Marks reached over the offensive line for a 1-yard rushing touchdown. Jackson later found redshirt freshman Charlie Jones wide open over the middle for a 53-yard touchdown. Junior tight end Tyler Mabry and Jackson connected after for a 9-yard touchdown. It was 35-6.

“We knew that anything that happened in the beginning was a reflection of us,” Jackson said. “We had self-inflicted wounds. We continued to push through, we know what kind of offense we run and what kind of people are on the offense and we fall through that.”

Jackson’s three first-half touchdowns put him at 15 for the season and tied for the NCAA lead.

The Bulls played a conservative second half.

Johnson was rested, and senior cornerback Cameron Lewis was cleared to come back after needing help to walk off the field, according to Leipold. 

Johnson still led the team with 101 yards on just two receptions. Jackson spread the ball, completing 14 passes to eight different receivers. 

The offensive line is now the only group in the Football Bowl Subdivision to not allow a sack this season. Keeping Jackson protected and healthy will be important for the Bulls to continue its dominance.

Buffalo returns home next Saturday for a rematch against Army West Point (2-2). Army defeated Buffalo 21-17 last season. The game is scheduled to kick off at 12 p.m. and will be broadcasted nationally on CBS Sports Network. 

Nathaniel Mendelson is the sports editor and can be reached at nathaniel.mendelson@ubspectrum.com or on Twitter @NateMendelson.