You couldn’t have scripted a better start for the University at Buffalo’s 31-24 victory against favored Ohio.
After forcing a three and out on the initial Bobcats drive, UB quarterback Tyree Jackson hit Anthony Johnson for a pair of 30-plus yard passes. On the second catch, Johnson deked the defender just past the sticks, allowing him to run free for a 31-yard touchdown.
Four plays later, the Bulls were in the end zone again. Demone Harris caught Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke from behind and forced a fumble. Chuck Harris, last week’s MAC East Defensive Player of the Week, snagged the ball and ran 20 yards untouched.
By the end of the first, the Bulls were up 24-7 with Jackson and Johnson boasting monster numbers.
Then the teams switched sides, forcing UB to go into the wind. The offense stalled and the defense held on for dear life in the middle quarters, but a 38-yard punt return by K.J. Osborn, a one-yard touchdown run by Emmanuel Reed and a Khalil Hodge interception in the fourth were enough to clinch a .500 regular season record.
With the wind at their backs, the Bulls relied on the pass in the first quarter. Reed didn’t get a rep until the 11 minute mark of the second frame. His usage eventually normalized, and he finished the game with 18 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson amassed 294 yards and two touchdowns on 19 of 30 passing.
Play of the game: Hodge clinched the victory with an interception in the end zone with 1:20 remaining in the game. Ohio faced a fourth and 12 from the UB 13-yard line. Rourke avoided pressure but forced the pass into traffic, allowing Hodge to tip the ball to himself.
Player of the game: Johnson ends the regular season with six 100-yard games. He totalled 155 yards and two touchdowns on six catches Saturday.
Watching the standings: With the victory, the Bulls move to 4-4 in the MAC and into a tie for third with Miami (OH) in the MAC East.
Milestones: With his 13th and 14th touchdowns, Johnson holds UB’s single-season touchdown reception record. Naaman Roosevelt previously held the record with 13. … Adam Mitcheson hit a wind-aided 49-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter to set a new career high. His previous best was 46 yards. … With seven tackles, Hodge moved into second in UB’s all-time record book for tackles in a season.
Rourke set Ohio’s single-season record for touchdowns and points.
Big absence: The Bobcats’ starting running back, A.J. Ouellette, was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury after two attempts. He came into the game ranked third in the MAC in rushing yards per game (88.3).
Coming up next: At 6-6, the Bulls have clinched bowl eligibility for the third time in program history and the first time under head coach Lance Leipold. UB has to anxiously wait to see if it gets an invite.