BOWLING GREEN, OH - (UB Athletics) It must be something about Doyt Perry Stadium, because every time the Buffalo football team plays at Bowling Green the incredible seems to happen.
After a four-overtime loss in 2006 and an incredible double overtime win by the Bulls here in 2008 – which clinched the Mid-American Conference East title – Buffalo somehow survived with a 28-26 victory on Saturday after Bowling Green missed a 40-yard field goal on the final play of the game to allow the Bulls to survive.
It was justice for the Buffalo defense who played a tremendous game as UB outgained the Falcons by a whopping 441-176 yards and had 27 first downs compared to BG's 10. Nonetheless, UB nearly gave up a 28-13 lead in the fourth quarter as the Falcons scored on an 82-yard interception return and a 48-yard pass to cut the lead to two points.
Then after the Bulls' defense stopped the Falcons in the final two minutes – on an interception by senior Sherrod Lott – and it appeared Buffalo was en route to the win disaster nearly struck. On a second-and-eight play UB fumbled at its own 24-yard line and it appeared that the dominating performance may have gone for naught. But after the Falcons gained only two yards, and two Buffalo timeouts, BG kick Bryan Wright's 40-yard field goal fluttered wide right by a few feet and the Buffalo sideline erupted.
"I think the message we take away from this is we can be a very good football team when we are playing our 'A' game and taking great care of the ball," said head coach Jeff Quinn, who has now won his first game at Buffalo and his first MAC game, "but again the lack of focus and discipline is unacceptable. But anytime you can go on the road in the Mid-American at Bowling Green and escape all those mistakes and penalties and turnovers and get a win, it's a great feeling for these young men and hopefully we can continue learning from it and developing as a football program."
"The senior leadership on our defense is exceptional," said Quinn of his defense. "We looked for JT (Josh Thomas), Davonte (Shannon) and Domonic (Cook) to lead us this week and they kept their poise. Our defense did a tremendous job of tackling, taking the ball away, harassing their quarteback, all the things you expect out of a senior-oriented outstanding defense."
"We have to clean up the mistakes," said quarterback Jerry Davis who threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns. "It shouldn't have been that close. Give Bowling Green credit, they played hard, but we definitely had chances to put the game away and we've got to learn from this opportunity and finish games, but fortunately we found a way to win."
The Bulls' defense was relentless throughout the game, limiting BG's high-powered offense to a season-low 176 yards – BG had nearly 300 the week before at Michigan – and forced five turnovers.
The Bulls defense had a plethora of stars, none bigger than the safety combo of Domonic Cook and Davonte Shannon and freshman linebacker Khalil Mack. Cook had a forced fumble, broke up three passes and had an interception, while Shannon had five tackles, a pass breakup, an interception and a fumble recovery. Mack, the freshman phenom, had a team-high nine tackles (six solos), a sack, a forced fumble and four tackles for loss. Junior Richie Smith added six tackles, while defensive linemate Anel Montanez had five tackles and a half-sack.
Also of note was the play of senior cornerback Josh Thomas, who held Lamar Jorden, who came into the game second in the nation in receptions with 40, to just two receptions for 12 yards. Thomas finished the game with five tackles and broke up a pair of passes, one of which was intercepted by Shannon.
The Bulls quickly extended a 14-13 halftime lead to 28-13 as the UB offense came out rolling in the second half behind quarterback Jerry Davis. On the opening kickoff of the second half, freshman tight end Jake Reeder alertly caught a short kickoff and returned it 15 yards to the UB 49. It took Davis and the offense 10 plays to get in the end zone, with Davis connecting on a drive-extending throw of 16 yards on a third down play to flanker Terrell Jackson, before hitting Marcus Rivers from seven yards out for his second touchdown toss of the game.
After a three and out by Bowling Green, the UB offense went right back to work. Tailback Jeffvon Gill – 13 carries for 52 yards in the game – ripped off a 14-yard gain before Davis hit Reeder for a 25-yard gain. Davis capped the drive with a nine-yard strike in the back of the end zone to Jackson between two defenders. Jackson had a career-best 90 yards receiving on seven catches.
With Buffalo's defense dominating – UB forced Bowling Green into four straight three-and-out possessions to start the second half – it appeared like UB might cruise to the win. However, despite driving inside the BG 35-yard line twice more, the Bulls could not add to their lead and were forced to hold on to the final play of the game
In a wild first quarter, the Falcons found themselves with a 6-0 lead despite accumulating 21 yards of offense and no first downs. It occurred because of two costly turnovers by Buffalo that took away one scoring opportunity, while handing BG another.
Inside the five-yard line, after a 32-yard connection from Davis to Jackson, the Bulls fumbled near the goal line when quarterback Alex Dennison was hit on a running play. The Falcons recovered at the one-yard line and kept the Bulls off the scoreboard.
After forcing another Bowling Green punt, Davis was intercepted by BG's Lorenzi who returned the ball to the Bulls' five-yard line. One play later, tailback Jordan Hopgood found the end zone off of right tackle. The PAT was no good, and Bowling Green led 6-0 with 6:18 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bulls tied the game by virtue of another big defensive play. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack sacked BG quarterback Aaron Pankratz forcing a fumble that teammate Steven Means recovered at the BG 15-yard line. Buffalo took advantage of the opportunity, overcoming a holding call on a clutch third-and-six conversion from Davis to tailback Jeffvon Gill for eight yards. Senior tailback Ike Nduka finished the drive with a one-yard plunge, and after an A.J. Principe PAT, UB led 7-6 with 11:41 to go in the first half.
The Bulls' defense continued to be opportunistic later in the half. After a pair of BG first downs moved the ball into Buffalo territory, senior safeties Domonic Cook and Davonte Shannon combined for a turnover. Cook stripped Eugene Cooper, with Shannon falling on it at the Buffalo 37-yard line. Buffalo appeared poised to take advantage after a 25-yard connection from Davis to Marcus Rivers, but the drive stalled at the BG 17-yard line. Kicker A.J. Principe's 35-yard field goal was wide right and the game remained a one-point affair.
On the ensuing possession, the Falcons regained the lead on a 49-yard pass from Pankratz to Tyrone Pronty down the right hashmark with 3:37 remaining in the half.
Buffalo, however, had an important answer at the end of the half. Buffalo drove 65 yards in eight plays in just 3:08 to re-take the lead. Davis connected on all four passes on the drive for 46 yards, including a 24-yard rainbow in the right corner of the end zone that was hauled in by freshman Alex Neutz.
The Bulls then stopped any late BG opportunity when Cook intercepted his second pass of the season with under :15 to go in the half. Buffalo went to intermission with a 14-13 lead.