Things looked bleak for the Bulls Saturday afternoon as they headed into the fourth quarter down 17 to the MAC West leading Toledo Rockets (5-3, 3-1 MAC). Sporting their newly unveiled throwback helmets on a warm and sunny fall afternoon, UB (5-3, 4-0 MAC) was struggling mightily on offense through three quarters. But with possession of the ball in Toledo territory to start the final quarter, there was no panic for the Bulls.
“The longer the games go for us, the stronger we get,” head coach Maurice Linguist said after UB stormed back in the fourth quarter to beat Toledo 34-27. While many fans headed for the exits after Toledo took a commanding 27-10 lead with 6:09 left in the 3rd quarter, those who stayed witnessed yet another wild finish at UB Stadium this season.
Offense erupts for 24 fourth-quarter points
The Bulls knew it would be a heavyweight fight for 60 minutes against a talented Toledo squad. Both teams came into the game undefeated in MAC conference play, with the winner set to take the top spot in the standings.
Despite the highly anticipated matchup, it was a Toledo offensive and defensive clinic through three quarters.
Finally scoring its first offensive touchdown of the game on a 5-yard Cole Snyder scamper, UB had new life down only 27-17 with 13:13 to go in the game. After a quick three and out for the Rockets on the ensuing drive, the Bulls got the ball back with plenty of time to work with.
UB quickly worked its way back down the field, led by a couple of nice catches by senior running back Ron Cook Jr. From the Toledo 32-yard line, sophomore wide receiver Jamari Gassett found a hole in the middle of the Toledo zone coverage and caught a pass from Snyder, before evading Toledo defenders and sprinting into the endzone to cut the deficit to 27-24.
The Bulls quickly wound up with the ball again following an interception on the next drive by Toledo. Getting back on the field deep in Rocket’s territory, Cook Jr. broke loose along the left sideline and finished the play with a 30-yard rushing touchdown, electrifying the UB crowd on hand.
Senior kicker Alex McNulty later tacked on a 42-yard field goal, but the Bulls comeback was already complete. After starting off the day slow, Snyder finished the game completing 22 of his 39 pass attempts for 245 yards and a passing touchdown to go along with a rushing touchdown.
Cook Jr. led the way for the Bulls’ rushing attack with 18 carries for a career-high 118 yards as well as three catches for 40 yards. Gassett finished the day with four catches for 69 yards and one touchdown.
Record-tying day for UB defender
Prior to UB’s first touchdown of the fourth quarter, the lone Bulls touchdown in the first three quarters came by way of the defense. During the second quarter, junior safety Keyshawn Cobb forced a fumble which was scooped up and returned 72 yards to the house by graduate safety Jahmin Muse.
The Bulls’ defense kept the team in the game by forcing turnovers at timely points to prevent the contest from getting out of hand. Before the first half ended, Toledo took a shot at a Hail Mary, which ended up in the hands of junior safety Marcus Fuqua. The safety found himself around the ball all afternoon as he finished the game with three of the team’s four interceptions.
“You gotta make the plays when they come your way,” Fuqua said after tying a school record for interceptions in a game, set by Cortney Lester in 2012. Fuqua now has five interceptions on the season, tied for first in all of FBS. Junior linebacker Shaun Dolac once again led the Bulls in tackles with 12, putting him at 86 for the season, which is tied for fourth-best in FBS.
After Saturday’s thrilling victory, the Bulls will be off until next Tuesday when they will play another important MAC conference game. UB will be in Athens, Ohio, where they will take on the Ohio Bobcats (5-3, 3-1 MAC) at Peden Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
With Ohio within striking distance of the Bulls’ top spot in the MAC East, UB will have another big matchup as it looks to push its win streak to six games. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.
The sports desk can be reached at email@example.com