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  • Budd Bailey

UB dominates Central Michigan

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

By Budd Bailey

It didn’t take long for the turning point of Buffalo’s 37-13 thumping of Central Michigan on Saturday afternoon to take place.

How about a whopping two minutes and 45 seconds?

On their third play of the game, the Chippewas’ Jase Bauer threw a pass that was intercepted by safety Devin Grant. The sophomore rambled 29 yards for a touchdown and a UB lead that grew to 7-0 with the point after.

While every team would like to start a game that way, this one seemed to put a jolt of energy into the entire Bulls’ roster.

“We wanted to start fast, and we went out there and make a statement and set the tone,” Grant said. “To put points on the board, that brings the whole team alive.”

“When you can have a big play like that during the game – we were preaching in the locker room at halftime that you have to go out there and finish,” UB quarterback Cole Snyder said. “When those guys do something like that, it’s a great feeling.”

Grant did a handoff with the football after the play, giving the ball to his mother.

“She’s my No. 1 supporter – her and my dad,” he said. “It’s out of the joy of the moment.”

Life had been difficult in the previous five weeks for UB. The team started the season with four straight nonconference losses.  Then last week against Akron, the Bulls figured out a way to win their first game of the season – albeit in overtime, although no one complained about staying late in the office.

But there were some signs of life in the fourth loss, a 45-38 defeat at Louisiana that indicated UB wasn’t ready to pack it in for the season.

“(In that game) we played really well in the first half on defense, and we played really well in the second half on offense,” coach Maurice Linguist of UB said.  “We hadn’t tied it all together. Last week at Akron, we relied a little more on our defense. This time we hit the sweet spot of what we want our games to look like.”

The win over the Zips provided the type of positive reinforcement that is always appreciated. Practices seem shorter, and goals move closer.

“We put our head down and had a great week of practice,” Snyder said. “I think you saw that translate today.”

“This was the next step for us,” Linguist said. “We wanted to play four consistent quarters and I’m proud with the way we played.”

The early interception started a trend for UB in Saturday’s game. The Bulls took the ball away in a variety of forms, and it constantly led to points. That’s a recipe for winning.

“The ball, the ball, the ball,” Linguist said. “The ball is the program. The ball is king. We honor and praise and recognize and we’ll hoist your name. Check the ball – those that chase the ball, hose that protect the ball, those that cover the ball., those that get the ball, those that take the ball away. We emphasize it every single day. Our program is based on how we respect the ball.”

Later in the first period, UB turned a fumble recovery into a Alex McNulty field goal. In the next quarter, Grant picked off his second pass of the day, and Ron Cook scored with 1:48 left in the half to make it 20-7. When Central Michigan turned the ball over on downs later in the half, McNulty added another field goal to make the score 23-7 at the half.

Grant made sure there would be no Chippewas’ comeback in the second half. Only 1:44 into the period, he ran an interception back 58 yards for yet another score.  Grant couldn’t remember a time when he had a pair of pick-sixes in the same game.

“Probably video games,” he said.

Cook added another short score to make the score 37-7 and turn the last 24 minutes into the game into garbage time. At this point, though, Grant still wasn’t taking any chances. He wasn’t going to think about celebrating UB’s best all-around performance of the season until it was completely over.

“As a team, we are going out there wanting to keep making plays,” he said. “When the clock hits zero, that’s when we enjoy it.”

While any offense loves to see the defense put two touchdowns up on the scoreboard, UB’s attack held up its end of the bargain. The Bulls completed 20 of 32 passes to eight different players with no interceptions, while the running game put up 123 yards.

“The coaches did a great job of game-planning,” Snyder said. “The running backs came out and ran really hard. The offensive line did their thing up and opened up the passing game for us. We were getting the ball out of our hands quick. You see at the end of the game it wasn’t just the throwing game.”

The victory may cause some casual fans to do a little double-take when viewing the updating Mid-American Conference standings. The Bulls are 2-0 and tied for the lead in the East Division. With a game against O-2 Bowling Green coming up at home next Saturday, the Bulls have to be thinking that they have a chance to turn their season completely around in the near future.

“After the first four games, sometimes you have to learn lessons the hard way,” Snyder said. “That’s what we have to do. We could have laid down and not done anything for the rest of the season. But we decided to take those lessons and run with them and learn from them. Now going into Bowling Green week, the big thing is realizing that we did come out with a victory but there’s still a lot of things to clean up.”

(Follow Budd on X @WDX2BB)

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