FOXBOROUGH, MA – (Buffalo Press Release) The University at Buffalo football team rallied from a 13-0 halftime deficit to beat Massachusetts, 29-19, at Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon. It was the Bulls’ third straight win and first road win since the 2010 season.
“To be able to win this game on the road says a lot about the character of these kids,” head coach Jeff Quinn said. “It was a great team win and that’s what it’s all about. I know our kids are excited about getting three wins in a row. It’s been a long time since we have been able to do that.”
The Bulls have won three straight games for the first time since 2008 and the just the second time in their Division I-A era (since 1999).
Buffalo (4-7, 3-4 MAC) played without running backs Branden Oliver and Devin Campbell and early on the UB offense looked to struggle because of it. The Bulls compiled just x yards of offense in the first half and lost the field position battle throughout the first 30 minutes. However, the Bulls’ defense kept UMass from building a larger first half lead.
It took a special teams play to spark the Bulls early in the third quarter. Adam Redden came off the edge to block the UMass punt and Kyndal Minniefield scooped up the ball and scampered 33 yards for a touchdown. Because the ball crossed the line of scrimmage, it was considered a punt return, marking the first time since Aug. 29, 2002 a UB player returned a punt for a touchdown. The 10-year drought was the longest in the nation.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Adam Redden stepping up and Kyndal Minniefield being able to take the ball and put us on the board for the first time, because we were really flat offensively, Quinn said.”
UMass answered by scoring a touchdown on its next drive. However, the Minutemen botched the extra point, making the score 19-7 with 6:49 left in the third quarter.
The UB offense caught fire after that and it was all Bulls from there on out. Joe Licata found Jimmy Gordon from three yards out to cut the UMass lead to 19-14 with 2:13 left in the third quarter. The key play on the drive was a Licata to Fred Lee hook up for 34 yards on 3rd and 16.
After forcing a UMass three and out, Buffalo got the ball back and methodically drove 77 yards on nine plays to take its first lead of the game. Rolling to his right, Licata threw across his body to Alex Neutz for a 6-yard touchdown. Again it was a Licata to Lee connection, this time for 44 yards, that keyed the scoring drive.
Brandon Murie put the exclamation point on the win with a 12-yard touchdown run with two minutes left to put UB ahead, 29-19.
The UMass offensive line was no match for a relentless UB defense pursuit late in the game. Buffalo sacked UMass quarterback Mike Wegzyn five times on the Minutemens’ last two drives.
Khalil Mack may have had the best game of his career. The All-MAC linebacker had a career-high 15 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He broke the school record for tackles for loss in a career with 53.5. The previous record of 50.5 was held by Vince Canosa (1992-95).
Steven Means also had a career day with nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a career-high three sacks. Colby Way added a career-high nine tackles and 1.5 sacks. As a team, the Bulls registered a season-high eight sacks in the game.
With Oliver and Campbell out, the Bulls turned to Murie and seldom-used Rashad Jean to fill to role of running back. Murie finished with a career-best 90 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. Jean was an even bigger surprise. A former defensive tackle, converted to fullback last season, Jean didn’t have a carry in his career. He finished with 73 yards on 17 carries.
“There was a lot of great effort out of Rashad Jean,” Quinn said. “I couldn’t have been more proud of him and the offensive line.”
Licata won his third straight start since being named the starting quarterback. The redshirt-freshman signal caller went 18-for-30 for 226 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The UB secondary had another solid day with a pair of interceptions and four pass breakups. Okoye Houston and Najja Johnson each notched an interception.
With 168 yards rushing in the game, Buffalo improved its season total to 2,091 - a UB Division I-A single season record. It is just the sixth time in program history the Bulls have rushed for 2,000 yards in a season.
Buffalo wraps up its season on Friday when it takes on Bowling Green in Columbus, OH at 2:00 pm.