By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
It would be an understatement to say Jaret Patterson single-handedly carried the University at Buffalo to the land of bowl eligibility.
A small understatement.
Patterson turned in a performance on Wednesday night that will require some editing in the record books. He scored five touchdowns – four rushing, one receiving – and piled up 192 rushing yards on 32 carries as the Bulls knocked off Toledo, 49-30 in UB Stadium.
Patterson never had five TDs in a game before –at any level.
“I had four back in high school,” he said. “This is unbelievable. I feel like I was playing in a video game or something.”
The win improved UB’s record to 6-5, 4-3 in the Mid-American Conference. Six is the magic number for qualifying for bowl consideration. More on that in a bit.
Patterson was easily the individual statistical standout on the night. He improved his totals on the season to 1,328 yards and 12 touchdowns, with one game (at least) left on the schedule. In chronological order, Patterson had touchdowns via a 24-yard reception, a 1-yard run, a 1-yard run, a 2-yard run, and a 7-yard run.
“The offensive line made a lot of holes for us, and we just used them to run,” Patterson said. “The RPOs (run-pass option) worked for us.”
He almost had a sixth scoe too. Patterson was stopped at the Toledo 1 late in the game, and Kyle Vantrease ran a bootleg into the end zone to cap Buffalo’s scoring.
Patterson’s five TDs tied the MAC record for touchdowns in a game, set several times. The last to do it was Toledo’s Shakif Seymour in 2017; he had a good view of it since he played for the Rockets on Wednesday (and scored a touchdown of his own).
Patterson also set a career high for rushing yardage in a game. His old mark was 187 against Kent State last season.
Name from the past
The school records aren’t complete in terms of most touchdowns in a game by a UB player. But Buffalo’s Lou Corriere (a Lockport native) ran for six touchdowns against Hobart on November 7, 1942. The all-around athlete also played for the Bulls in 1946 and 1947, as World War II apparently got in his way. Corriere was one of the first players ever inducted into the UB Athletic Hall of Fame.
This was a good win for the Bulls, if only because of the psychology involved. UB looked all set to collect its sixth win in its last game, only to see Kent State score the final 24 points of the game (all in the fourth quarter) to win a stunning victory. There was no sign of a carryover of that in the game.
“The biggest thing was not to be tentative,” Leipold said. “Play fast, be fearless, don’t hesitate on what we were doing. Those are some of the things that played out a bit. Last week, we got ahead, the momentum changed, and we got out a little bit. When we’re playing fast, we’re a pretty good football team. They embraced that all week.
“Were we going to let seven-plus minutes define our football team, or were we going to do something about it? I’m proud of them.”
It did make a good start more important, and the Bulls got that. Kevin Marks and Patterson made it 14-0 before the first quarter was over. But Toledo tied the game at 14 about five minutes into the second quarter, and for a while it looked like one of those “last team to score wins.”
In fact, the Bulls only led, 28-23, in the third quarter. Then they scored the next three touchdowns to break the game completely open.
UB ran the ball 53 times on the night, and they finished with a season-high 331 yards on the ground. Marks joined Patterson in the 100-yard club with 118 on the night. The Bulls averaged 6.2 yards per carry. Meanwhile, quarterback Kyle Vantrease was an efficient 13 for 20 for 172 yards.
“It was definitely a one-two punch between me and J.P,” Marks said. “His style and my style coming in add punch to the defense.”
“They were up for the challenge,” Leipold said. “There were two good running football teams here today. I know they were having some problems in defending the run. They are an athletic defense, but not the biggest. … I think they’ve gone through their share of injuries and adversity. Ten games into the season, we’re not fooling anyone by saying we’re running the football.”
The Bulls, then exited with that 6-5 record. It means there’s a chance to go to a bowl game somewhere. If nothing else, that’s probably the first checkmark of what might make for a successful season.
“It is a relief to be bowl eligible,” Vantrease said. “This season up to this point has had a lot of ups and downs, overcoming a lot of adversity. I think it’s starting to show that we’re coming together as a team. We’re starting to show our potential as a group.”
Still, a six-win team from one of the big conferences – and their big fan base for ticket-buying purposes – always has an edge when it comes to the selection of teams for that previous postseason game. Buffalo missed out on such a bowl trip in 2017 despite six wins. Leipold wants to take no chances this time.
“As we found out two years ago, as a head coach I’d like to get this program to the point where it’s not bowl eligibility. It’s bowl participation, followed by bowl victories,” he said. “To be in the conversation is great. But as I told our team, two years ago we thought things were really good. Then we had to walk in and really crush a group of guys, especially a senior group that didn’t get to play a 13th game. Until I’m told it’s official, I’ll keep it in neutral right now.”
The chance to win game No. 7 comes a week from Friday against Bowling Green.