The UB Bulls clinch their first MAC East title in 10 years

Howard Simon
November 23, 2018 - 4:40 pm

In 2016 the University at Buffalo football team managed to win only two of their 12 games and tied for the worst record in Mid-American Conference play at 1-7. Just two years later, the Bulls have flipped those records around.

A 44-14 romp over Bowling Green on Friday pushed UB to 10-2 overall and 7-1 in MAC play, the best conference showing among the league’s 12 schools. The win clinched the MAC East division title for the Bulls, just their second outright crown since joining the MAC in 1999. Buffalo will now meet Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship Friday in Detroit. 

UB also reached the 10-win mark for the first time in program history. They had never recorded more than eight victories in their previous 19 seasons at the FBS level. The 7-1 conference record is their best ever MAC finish. 

The Bulls left no doubt in a game against a lesser opponent, although Bowling Green had won their last two contests at Central Michigan and at Akron. UB looked like a team that was angry nine days after getting crushed by Ohio and letting their first chance at clinching the division slip out of their hands. They dominated this game on both sides of the ball and it was over by halftime when the Bulls led 34-7.

Following a three-and-out on their first possession, UB’s offense proceeded to score touchdowns on each of its next four drives. A 40-yard touchdown run by freshman Jarret Patterson was the game’s first score. The Falcons answered right back with a 75-yard touchdown drive, but it was all blue and white from that point on.

On the Bulls next drive, they decided to go for it on 4th-and-4 at Bowling Green's 37-yard line. Junior quarterback Tyree Jackson threw a perfect pass to George Rushing III, which put the Bulls up 13-7 and in front for good as it turned out. The defense found the end zone too. On the Falcons' next possession, linebacker Khalil Hodge stripped the ball from a Bowling Green receiver after a catch and Brandon Williams returned the fumble 69 yards for the first defensive touchdown of the season. 

The next time UB had the ball on offense, they produced an 80-yard touchdown drive. Jackson converted a 3rd-and-10 on that possession with a beautiful 47-yard bomb to Charlie Jones, taking the Bulls down to the Falcons' 11-yard line. Patterson ran it in for six on the very next play. UB led 27-7 after converting the two-point attempt.

After a Falcons punt, the Bulls went on an impressive 17 play drive that took 7:40 off the clock. They capped it off with a one-yard touchdown run by Kevin Marks. The Bulls ran the ball on 12 of the 17 plays.

After a rare UB punt on their opening drive of the third quarter, the Bulls put together another monster touchdown drive. This time it covered 92 yards over 12 plays and took 7:24 off the clock. Third string running back Emmanuel Reed had 46 yards rushing on the drive, but it was Marks who found the end zone from three yards out. UB scored 34 straight points after Bowling Green tied the game at 7-7 back in the first quarter.

The starters were pretty much done at that point. The Bulls would add a 21-yard field goal from Alex McNulty and Bowling Green got a late touchdown pass to close out the scoring.

Tyree Jackson was 12-of-20 for 151 yards, one touchdown and one interception in, not quite, three quarters of action. The touchdown pass was his 25th of the season, which ties him with Drew Willy for the second most touchdown passes in a single season. Williamsville South alum Joe Licata had 29 in 2014.

The Bulls churned out 332 yards on the ground, which is why their time of possession number was an eye popping 42:30. Buffalo did a great job of keeping drives going, converting on 11-of-18 third downs and going four-for-four on fourth down, including the Jackson 37-yard touchdown toss.  

In what is turning out to be the best offensive season in UB history, the Bulls have now scored 423 points, which is tied for the most in a single season. To put that in perspective, back in 2016 when UB was 2-10 overall, they scored just 198 points in those 12 games.

Nine days after being shredded by Ohio University, the Bulls defense played with a vengeance. Bowling Green had just 205 total yards, six first downs, and went 1-of-8 on third down. The defense had two takeaways including the fumble recovery for a touchdown. Hodge became just the fourth player in school history to reach at least 400 career tackles.

The Bulls and Huskies will kick things off on Friday at 7 p.m. from Ford Field in Detroit. You can watch the game on ESPNU, or listen to the call with Paul Peck, Scott Wilson and Brad Riter on ESPN 1520.

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