Bulls check out at Dollar General Bowl

Tyree Jackson’s late turnover seals Bulls’ fate

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The Bulls had two chances to be champions this season. They lost both.

Junior quarterback Tyree Jackson had an opportunity to throw the ball away; instead, he fumbled.

The fumble sealed the fate of Buffalo as Troy took over on the UB 20-yard line. The Trojans scored a touchdown five seconds later.

The Bulls (10-4, 7-1 Mid-American Conference) played in their third-ever bowl game Saturday night. They took on the Troy Trojans in the annual matchup between the MAC and Sun Belt conference at the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. A week of parades and bowling tournaments ended in tears for the Bulls. Buffalo lost 42-32 to Troy. 

The Bulls lost three of their last four games.

Buffalo was up by three points at halftime, 17-14. The Bulls were 17-3 when leading at halftime under head coach Lance Leipold. Now the team is 17-4 under him. The past two losses came from championship games. 

The Bulls kept Troy’s offense limited despite three fumbles in the first half. Buffalo would’ve put itself in a strong position to win a bowl game for the first time ever if the team was able to limit turnovers. 

Instead, Buffalo did not run a single offensive play in the entire third quarter.

Troy opened up the quarter with a 10-play, 75-yard drive to score and take its first lead of the game. The Trojans fooled the Bulls and went for an onside-kick in the ensuing kickoff. Troy recovered the football.

The Trojans, against a tired UB defense, were easily able to get back inside the red zone. But UB forced a fumble as sophomore safety Tyrone Hill scooped and scored a 93-yard touchdown. Hill was the only Bull to touch the ball that quarter.

Troy then had possession and marched down the field, again. The Trojans connected on the first of three fourth-quarter touchdowns with 14:13 remaining in the fourth.

For the first time in over an hour, Jackson and the Bulls offense would get a chance to take the field.

The Bulls, needing to score and needing to rest their defense, were clearly out of sync. Buffalo ran three plays for one yard and punted.

The Trojans only needed three plays of their own to score after blown coverage in the secondary led to a 45-yard score.

Buffalo found a little magic and was able to score and complete a two-point conversion to only be down three points. The Bulls finally got a stop on defense and had their opportunity to retake the lead with under four minutes remaining.

In what could possibly be one of Jackson’s last drives as a Bull, the junior fumbled when it was avoidable. Jackson rolled out to his left and failed to see a Troy defenseman coming back across the field. 

The defender easily knocked the ball out of the unsuspecting quarterback’s hand. It was Buffalo’s fourth fumble of the game.

The Bulls still completed the best season in program history with a record 10 wins, but losses in each of the biggest games of the season leave something left to be desired. 

The Bulls will not have an easy path to repeat this year’s success, with seniors like wide receiver Anthony Johnson, center James O’Hagan, linebacker Khalil Hodge and defensive end Chuck Harris all leaving.

Nathaniel Mendelson is the senior sports editor and can be reached at nathaniel.mendelson@ubspectrum.com