After nearly falling to Old Dominion, 35-34, last week to close out non-conference play, UB football (2-3) fell to its first Mid-American Conference opponent of the season, the Western Michigan Broncos (4-1), 24-17 at UB Stadium Saturday.
Despite heading into the fourth quarter with a 10-7 lead in their homecoming game, the Bulls’ defense allowed 17 unanswered points and found itself down 24-10 with less than three minutes left in the game. An aggressive yet successful final drive decreased the deficit to seven points but the Bulls were unable to recover the onside kick with less than a minute to go.
UB was outdone in the time of possession battle, holding onto the football for 13:21, opposed to Western Michigan’s 40:06. Coming out of the half, the Bulls went three-and-out on four straight drives, garnering only 12-total yards. Head coach Maurice Linguist credited the Broncos’ strong efforts to shut down the offensive scheme.
“In the second half, we made an emphasis on trying to get a couple things established that Western Michigan was taking away from us,” Linguist said in the post-game press conference. “But, we’ve got to be ready to respond to the next series of plays and things we need to do to move the ball effectively.”
The first half was tightly contested, with the Bulls defense making crucial fourth down and red-zone stops to prevent the Broncos from scoring.
Toward the end of the first quarter, Western Michigan redshirt sophomore quarterback Kaleb Eleby — who led the MAC in passing yards and passing touchdowns heading into Saturday’s game — threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Skyy Moore to give the Broncos an early 7-0 lead. The Bulls responded in less than 30 seconds with an explosive 55-yard touchdown run from junior running back Ron Cook Jr.
Things were looking good for the Bulls as they entered the fourth quarter up 10-7 following a 37-yard field goal from junior kicker Alex McNulty. But the drastic difference in possession time proved to be the deciding factor as UB’s defense began to experience late-game fatigue.
The Bulls’ offense was struggling to generate any sort of consistency, resulting in four straight three-and-outs that left the defense on the field far too long. The defense simply ran out of gas as they tried to contain Eleby and the Broncos’ offense.
Linguist said he places emphasis on the idea of “complimentary football,” but the team was unable to do that in the second half.
“We talk a ton about playing complimentary football, where the offense affects the defense and the defense affects the offense,” Linguist said. “Our defense did a very good job of containing a team that went up-and-down the field against a lot of teams this year, and kept the game within reach for most of the second half. But there’s a couple plays we’d quite like to get back from that fourth quarter.”
Buffalo’s offense was not able to produce enough momentum to keep them in the game. The Bulls only generated 282 total yards and two touchdowns compared to the Broncos’ 457 total yards and three touchdowns.
While UB’s offense was woeful at times graduate student wide receiver Quian Williams has consistently shown up for the Bulls’ offense since transferring from MAC rival Eastern Michigan. Williams was targeted eight times by senior quarterback Kyle Vantrease to lead the stampede with 119 receiving yards.
“He’s [Quian] a good leader, a great, hard worker, and he’s going to make plays,” Vantrease said. “I’m really proud of everything he’s done and it’s just really nice to be able to have that kind of athlete, that kind of player out there on the field, because it opens up everything else.”
Vantrease only completed 12-of-22 passes for 151 yards and failed to throw a touchdown. He was sacked for the first time this season at the beginning of the second quarter, which resulted in a forced fumble and recovery by Western Michigan.
The Broncos were able to successfully convert 3-of-5 on fourth down and 6-of-15 on third down while UB was only able to convert 4-of-11 on third down conversions.
“Ultimately, that comes down to me forcing and willing the offense to get a first down, to continue with the drive,” Vantrease said. “We just got to be collectively better so that we can play better complimentary. I like winning, so I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. I don’t care if the ball’s on the ground 60 times or the ball’s in the air 60 times, it doesn’t matter to me. We just have to execute.”
The Bulls will travel on the road to face the Kent State Golden Flashes in search of their first MAC win on Saturday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. at Dix Stadium in Kent, OH. The game will be aired on ESPNU.
Hunter Skoczylas is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @HunterSkoczylas
The sports desk can be reached at email@example.com
Hunter Skoczylas is the sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found looking up random sports statistics, jamming to Fleetwood Mac and dedicating his Sunday afternoons to watching the Buffalo Bills.