Emboldened by two big victories against the past two Mid-American Conference football champions, the Buffalo Bulls are gaining recognition as a top contender to claim the title this season.
Following its 42-10 drubbing of MAC East division co-favorite Miami last week, UB received a vote in this week’s AP Top 25 poll, recognition the program last received following a 44-14 win at Bowling Green on Nov. 23, 2018 that improved the Bulls' record to 10-2 going in to the MAC title game.
Bowling Green once dominated the MAC East under the leadership of Lewiston native Dave Clawson, but the Falcons have fallen off since Clawson left to coach at Wake Forest. Last year, UB closed out its regular season with a 49-7 win against Bowling Green that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
UB is favored by 30-plus points in tonight’s game at Bowling Green (7 p.m. CBSSN), reflecting the Bulls’ recent dominance against conference foes and the struggles faced by a Falcons team that has been outscored 100-27 in its opening losses against Toledo and Kent State.
“We are not very good right now in any phase of the game,” Bowling Green’s second-year coach Scot Loeffler said.
UB coach Lance Leipold, however, is looking past the first two weeks of the season and last year’s matchup, citing Bowling Green’s upset win against Toledo last season as proof that the Bulls shouldn’t look past this opponent.
“When they are ready to play and execute, they are a very dangerous team that can beat anyone in our conference,” Leipold.
“Focusing on ourselves,” Leipold added, “talking about if we want to be the type of team that we are capable of being, going on the road and playing well again is extremely important. And cleaning up some of the things from last week that we can still get better at.”
Finding flaws in UB’s performance is difficult these days.
Quarterback Kyle Vantrease, a steady steward of the offense since he entered the starting lineup midway through last season, unveiled an explosive element to UB’s passing attack last week. Vantrease set personal-best marks throwing for 353 yards and four touchdowns, highlighted by the two longest scoring passes in his career, and was named MAC East Offensive Player of the Week.
Playing at Bowling Green for the first time in his career will be a thrill for Vantrease. Both of his parents and a sister attended the school. His mother, Patti, competed for the Falcons’ swim team.
As Vantrease and his receiving corps expand their horizons, UB’s running game has remained stout, with Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks combining for 357 yards with a 5.8-yard rushing average in two games.
Patterson ran for a pair of touchdowns in each of the first two wins, breaking Niagara Falls native James Starks’ UB records with 38 total touchdowns (37 rushing). Patterson also became the fastest UB running back to surpass 3,000 career yards, and he is now 82 yards from passing Anthony Swan for third on UB’s all-time rushing list — 119 behind Starks for second.
While Patterson’s streak of seven 100-yard rushing games ended last week, Marks tallied 109 yards and became the ninth player in UB history to surpass 2,000 career yards.
This will be UB’s last midweek MACtion game of the season and the Bulls will have 10 days off before hosting Kent State on Nov. 28.