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Tuesday, November 30, 2021
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Bulls rally from 21-point deficit, defeat Ohio 27-26

Alex McNulty hits the game-winner to give UB its first MAC victory

Bulls celebrate during the game against Ohio State at UB Stadium Saturday.
Bulls celebrate during the game against Ohio State at UB Stadium Saturday.

Following back-to-back conference losses to Western Michigan and Kent State, UB’s back was against the wall heading into Saturday’s home matchup against Ohio.

The Bulls’ chance of heading to postseason play greatly diminished following the two losses and UB desperately needed a win to keep its bowl game hopes alive.

Despite finding themselves down 21 points in the first quarter, the Bulls (3-4, 1-2 MAC) rallied to defeat the Bobcats (1-6, 1-2 MAC), 27-26, and remain in bowl game contention.

“This team has had a ton of close games this season and we’ve felt the pain of coming up on the short end of some of these games,” head coach Maurice Linguist said in the post-game press conference. “[I’m] just proud of the way the guys fought and found a way. Wanna talk about this game? It’s about a group of guys finding a way to make it happen with the game on the line.”

Senior quarterback Kyle Vantrease recorded season-highs in passing yards (261) and passing touchdowns (two), while junior running back Dylan McDuffie reached season-highs in carries (23) and yards (143) in the absence of senior Kevin Marks Jr., who was sidelined with an undisclosed injury.

The game was a tale of two halves, especially for the UB defense, who struggled to contain an explosive Ohio rushing attack that rushed for 216 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Armani Rogers led the Bobcats on the ground with 183 rushing yards and made history with a 99-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The 99-yard scamper was the longest rushing touchdown by a quarterback in NCAA history and broke former Arizona State quarterback Mark Malone’s record of 98 yards against Utah State in 1979. Rogers also led Ohio with two rushing touchdowns in a losing effort.

Ohio senior running back De’Montre Tuggle recorded 46 rushing yards and a score and redshirt freshman running back O’Shann Allison was held to just 20 yards on 10 carries.

The defense allowed just three points in the second half and earned multiple crucial stops to keep UB in the game. A fumble recovery by fifth-year senior linebacker Kadofi Wright set up Vantrease’s touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Trevor Borland to bring UB within two points in the fourth quarter while a forced three-and-out set up the game-winning field goal by junior kicker Alex McNulty.

The Bulls, who emphasized stopping Ohio’s speed-option offense, allowed only 55 rushing yards in the second half. Linguist says multiple halftime adjustments were crucial to stopping the Bobcats’ ground game.

“We started squeezing the end down a little bit more, crashing the end and then letting the back end [the defensive backs] split and fold over the top,” Linguist said. “Our second-level guys started setting edges better than they did in the first half. And then all of a sudden those eight, nine, 10-yard runs turn into five-yard runs. And then you play a little bit harder and they turn into two-yard runs. And then you put a little bit more effort into it and now you get negative plays.”

Vantrease’s touchdown passes to Borland and sophomore tight end Tyler Stephens brought UB within two points of the Bobcats with 8:39 remaining in the fourth quarter. Successful two-point conversion attempts could have tied the game but the Bulls split the pair of two-point conversions.

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After multiple inconsistent kicking performances (5-of-11 heading into the game), McNulty was trusted with the game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.

He initially missed the first kick, but an offsides penalty against Ohio gave the Caledonia, NY native another crack at the game-winning try. He hit the kick from 26 yards out to give UB a crucial 27-26 come-from-behind victory.

“It was nice to be there for my team when they needed me,” McNulty said. “I haven’t done the most consistent job of that this year, and I really wanted to be there for them [teammates]. We deserved to win and I wanted to be there to help them get that.”

After earning its first Mid-American Conference victory in an up-and-down season, the Bulls are now looking to remain consistent each game.

Not every game can be a barn burner. The Bulls will need to learn how to play to their fullest potential throughout the course of a game.

But of course, a win is a win.

“We know we have to start stronger and we have to play to our potential every single minute of the game, every snap,” McDuffie said. “But in Division-I football, it’s hard to get a win. So we’re gonna have fun and cherish the win and tomorrow it’s back to work.”

Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at anthony.decicco@ubspectrum.com and @DeCicco42 on Twitter 


ANTHONY DECICCO
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Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m. 

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