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  • Budd Bailey

Bowling Green rolls over UB

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

By Budd Bailey

The University at Buffalo football team had built up some good feelings in the past two weeks, as the Bulls earned their first two wins of the season.

It was a little startling then, to see those feelings washed away on a rainy Saturday afternoon at UB Stadium.

The Bulls dropped a 24-14 contest to Bowling Green that felt a little more one-sided than it looked on the scoreboard. And a 2-5 record just past the midpoint of the season sounds quite a bit worse than a 3-4 record while working on a three-game winning streak.

“It was a disappointing loss,” coach Maurice Linguist of UB said. “We can’t turn the ball over as many times as we did and expect to win any game, let alone in conference play.”

The turnovers were a problem in this one. Two Buffalo quarterbacks combined to throw four interceptions, and the team threw in a fumble along the way too. But the picks were merely a symptom of the overall problems for the offense, particularly in the passing game.

Shield your eyes a bit for this. UB finished a combined 9 of 27 for 71 yards passing. That won’t get it done. And the offense only had a total of six first downs on seven drives in the first half. The running game only had 44 yards in the first 30 minutes.

“When you throw four interceptions in a game … we haven’t thrown four interceptions in a game in years,” Linguist said. “We were on the plus side on turnovers coming in. We protected the ball, and respected the ball. Today that was not true.”

“They out-executed us,” running back Ron Cook added. “We need to stick to our plan. That’s just executing every play.”

A first-half meltdown was unexpected. The Bulls took the early lead as they capitalized on a fumble recovery in Bowling Green territory. Quarterback Cole Snyder ran it in from the BG 10 for a score. UB still had a 7-3 late in the first quarter when Snyder lost the ball in Falcons’ territory. Bowling Green needed only three plays and 11 yards to take the lead.

The Falcons got the ball back with a defensive stop a few minutes later in the second quarter, and moved the ball 86 yards on 13 plays. Ten of those plays were runs. Bowling Green had grabbed all the advantage after scoring to go ahead by 17-7.

“They came out and ran the ball hard,” defensive back Devin Grant said. “We missed a lot of tackles.”

Still, UB had the ball with a chance to cut the margin in the eight minutes before halftime. But the offensive stalled after a first down, and Ave McGary of BG blocked Anthony Venneri’s punt.  A kind bounce allowed PaSean Wimberly to waltz 30 yards for yet another touchdown. The extra point made it 24-7, Bowling Green. That was a major gut punch for the Bulls.

“Something like a blocked punt happening to the team sets you back,” Cook said. “It can switch the momentum of the game in a second. … We tried to respond the best we could, but we didn’t do it enough.”

The Bulls couldn’t score on the first two possessions of the half, leaving little reasons for optimism. Linguist, who had planned on playing backup quarterback CJ Ogbonna at some point in the game, brought him in at the start of the second half to give the team a lift.

“We had a package for CJ; he was going to play this week,” Linguist said. “CJ played more than probably we anticipated, just because we were not able to get anything going on offense. We still have confidence in Cole. That’s a bowl-game winning quarterback. … But in the moment, we have to do what we need to do to win the game.”

Ogbonna said, “The coaches told me to come in and execute. I have to do a better job of executing.”

On Ogbonna’s second drive, the Bulls finally moved the ball. They went 74 yards for a touchdown. The last 24 came on a pass to Darrell Harding Jr., although he may have helped his own cause with a push on the defender that went uncalled.

The Bulls still trailed by 10, and Bowling Green’s offense had slowed to a crawl (two first downs in the final 30 minutes).  At least the missed tackles disappeared.

“I thought our guys showed a lot of resiliency, after giving up 24 points,” Linguist said.

It didn’t take much imagination to figure that if UB could get within a touchdown, a kind bounce somewhere might turn the game around.  But we’re closer to Halloween than Christmas, and there were no gifts in sight in the final 19 minutes.

The schedule takes a turn at this point for the Bulls. They are done playing Saturday home games in Buffalo, with the last two games coming on Tuesday nights on November. Three of the final five are on the road, starting with next week’s game at Kent State. If you guessed that Linguist feels some urgency going into that contest, you’re right.

“I like our football team. I don’t like this feeling,” Linguist said. “We’ve have to get it fixed.”

Follow Budd on @WDX2BB)

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