Running of the Bulls

Freshman duo dazzle in win against Central Michigan

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Freshman running backs Kevin Marks and Jaret Patterson had career days in Buffalo’s first-ever win in Mount Pleasant, Michigan against the Central Michigan Chippewas (1-5, 0-2 Mid-American Conference).

The Bulls (5-1, 2-0 MAC) defeated Central Michigan 34-24. Buffalo spoiled Central Michigan’s homecoming with a season-high 307 yards rushing and 4 interceptions. Junior quarterback Tyree Jackson had his first rushing touchdown of the season to go along with 10 of 20 passing for 127 yards and a touchdown. 

“Fight through adversity,” Marks said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. This is a bowl-eligible team throughout the years. They won MAC championships. So we knew we had to come in and take it from them.”

Marks and Patterson have electrified the Buffalo backfield since the first game of the season. Both rushed for over 100 yards and had touchdowns in Saturday’s win.

Patterson showed his quick cutting ability on one of his first touches of his career. At only 5 feet 9 inches, he used his quickness to break off a 26-yard touchdown against Delaware State during the Bulls’ first game. Patterson showed that same quickness combined with the power of a larger running back on his 14-yard rush to the end zone Saturday.

Marks jumped into a more prominent role quicker than Patterson. Against Temple, he ran for 138 yards and 2 touchdowns. He scored a touchdown in the last five games and leads the team with 7 rushing touchdowns on the season.

With 5:24 remaining in the third quarter, Marks broke off his longest run of the season for a touchdown. The 70-yard run is the longest run by a Bull this season and put Buffalo up 24-10.

Marks finished with 18 rushes for 167 yards for 9.3 yards per carry. Patterson finished with 18 rushes for 121 yards. It is the first time two freshman running backs had over 100 yards in the same game since 2002.

The locker room calls the Marks and Patterson duo “Starks and Bo,” according to Marks. This refers to former standout running backs James Starks and Branden Oliver. Starks and Oliver both played in the NFL.

“I think they did a great job,” Jackson said. “Our offensive line opened up some big holes and we have some guys that can really go. Guys like Kevin Marks can make little plays into a big play and he showed that today and stretched the field with his long runs.”

The Bulls started out quick with a touchdown on their opening drive. 

Head coach Lance Leipold wanted to get his tight ends more involved following last week’s loss to Army. Jackson completed his first two passes to junior tight end Tyler Mabry. Jackson faked a hand off and rolled out to his right to find Mabry in the end zone for the Bulls first score of the game.

Buffalo held Central Michigan to three points in the first half and entered halftime with a 17-3 lead.

The Bulls barely had to throw in the second half. Jackson only threw for 38 yards, all in the third quarter. Buffalo did not attempt a pass in the fourth quarter.

Buffalo’s secondary stepped up and intercepted Central Michigan’s junior quarterback Tommy Lazzaro three times in the second half. Senior cornerback Cameron Lewis had his third interception of the season and shifted the momentum to give Buffalo the ball at the Central Michigan 39-yard line.  

“Once we got that interception, our offense went down and scored,” Lewis said. “It put us back up by two touchdowns and that’s a big shift on the road.”

It's the first time the Bulls had 4 interceptions in a game since Oct. 24, 2015 against Ohio.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, the title as the only team in college football to not allow a sack is no more. A fumble by Jackson in the second quarter was ruled as a sack despite Jackson already being in the throwing motion. He was later sacked again in the fourth quarter.

The offensive line took a huge blow as junior lineman Paul Nosworthy went down with a leg injury. His current status is unknown.

Senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson was dressed to play but did not see action. He is still dealing with a hamstring injury and has barely played the last three contests.

Heading into next week, the main thing Leipold wants to see is his team get healthier. Without Johnson, they have been limited in the vertical passing game and Leipold wants to reestablish it. Defensively, the Bulls will have to work on their quarterback scrambles as Lazzaro ran for 102 yards Saturday.

The Bulls only need one more win to become bowl eligible. Buffalo returns home for homecoming next weekend to face the Akron Zips (2-2, 0-1 MAC). The game is set to kick off at 12 p.m. and will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.

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