Bulls dominate in season opener
Tyree Jackson throws school record five touchdowns in the first half
UB football dominated its season opener against the Delaware State Hornets (0-1, 0-0) 48 to 10. By the completion of the first half, Buffalo (1-0, 0-0 Mid-American Conference) led 34-3 with junior quarterback Tyree Jackson passing for a school record of five touchdowns in the half.
The Bulls came into this season with high expectations and the most preseason excitement in recent memory. The team that finished a bowl-eligible 6-6 last season returned 14 starters with eight on offense. The offense includes Associated Press Preseason All-American, senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson, Jackson, Mackey Award watch list member and junior tight end Tyler Mabry and Doak Walker Award watch list member and junior running back Emmanuel Reed.
“We saw some opportunities that we were going to get the one-on-one matchups that we wanted,” head coach Lance Leipold said. “We had great protection, especially [during] the first half and you saw a starting quarterback that came out and played with great confidence.”
Leipold said he doesn't want to repeat what happened two years ago against Albany, where the Bulls lost 22-16.
“We’ll never get past that one,” Leipold said. “People come in and play with great effort. To have a game that goes this way, we have been waiting for a game like this. We can get a lot of people in and that’s what I feel good about.”
Buffalo’s defense started strong as the Hornets were unable to get anything going. Led by senior linebacker Khalil Hodge, the Bulls held the Hornets to just nine yards on its first nine plays. Three quick three-and-out possessions gave Buffalo favorable field positions, helping them jump out to a 13-0 lead with 5:37 left in the first quarter.
The Jackson to Johnson connection produced its first touchdown of the year on a 27 yard completion. Johnson barely dragged his foot down in the endzone to produce a highlight reel worthy play. Johnson would not play the second half and finished with four catches for a team high 57 yards and one touchdown. Johnson now sits only 1,299 yards away from tying last years total.
Despite the 34 points and 222 total yards of offense, the Bulls were unable to convert third-down situations. In the first half, the Bulls were just one of eight on third downs. But, Leipold trusted his offense and offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki as the team went four for four during fourth down situations. Two of the fourth down conversions resulted in touchdowns; both were Jackson passing touchdowns.
Jackson finished the game with six total touchdowns and a 195.1 quarterback rating in just over two quarters of play. Jackson praised the work of his offensive line and wide receivers after the game.
“Our offensive line did a great job first off, they worked their tails off” Jackson said. “We didn’t really have an idea what they were going to do today with their new coaches. Our receiving core is real special. Those guys ran great routes and got open. Trying to get them the ball was the easy part.”
Delaware State would come no closer to the Bulls in the second half. Freshman running back Jaret Patterson and redshirt-freshman wide receiver Charlie Jones each scored their first career touchdowns in the third quarter to build the lead to 48-3.
Delaware State scored its first and only touchdown of the night on a 24 yard run by senior running back Brycen Alleyne to make the score 48-10 with 8:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.
With the starters done for the night, Bulls backups would thrive. Junior linebacker Matt Otwinowski finished with 10 tackles, two more than last year's NCAA leader Hodge. Even sophomore men’s basketball player and quarterback Dominic Johnson took some snaps but did not attempt a pass.
Graduate transfer wide receiver George Rushing played in his first game in over a year and a half. He caught two passes on the night, both for touchdowns.
“It was just fun,” Rushing said. “Last game I played in was the Cotton Bowl so it was nice to get out there and get the jitters out.”
The Bulls played just as advertised. Its high powered offense featured 10 different players catch a pass while the defense forced four turnovers, including three fumbles.
Buffalo travels to Philadelphia next Saturday to take on the 0-1 Temple Owls at 3:30 p.m.
Nathaniel Mendelson is a sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @NateMendelson.