The University at Buffalo is on a remarkable run entering the college football bowl season.
Jaret Patterson trampled across the all-time rushing list on Saturday at UB Stadium, breaking a record or passing a milestone on most every carry it seemed, and the Bulls ended the regular season with an emphatic 49-7 beat down of Bowling Green to solidify their bowl eligibility with a 7-5 record.
Patterson piled up a school-record 298 yards and became the first player in the history of the Mid-American Conference to rush for six touchdowns in a single game. Both figures are season highs in Division-I FBS, and Paterson is just the fourth player in 20 seasons to rush for 298 or more yards and six touchdowns in one game.
UB’s sophomore star also passed both Niagara Falls native James Starks and all-time rushing leader Branden Oliver on the single-season charts by bringing his 12-game totals to 1,835 yards from scrimmage (1,626 rushing) and 18 touchdowns (17 rushing). Playing his 26th game for the Bulls, Patterson moved past Alan Bell, Anthony Swan and Lee Jones into third all-time with 31 rushing touchdowns (three fewer than Starks’ school record) and his 2,247 career rushing yards ranks sixth in UB history, now fewer than 900 yards from Starks’ three-year total that is second only to Oliver’s record 4,049 yards in four seasons.
While Patterson produced one of the top-15 rushing days in MAC history on 26 carries (11.5-yard average), the other half of UB’s backfield power-couple, Kevin Marks, ran for 107 yards with a touchdown and raised his season total to 1,008.
Kyle Vantrease had another efficient game at quarterback, completing 10-of-14 passes for 131 yards without taking a sack or turning the ball over. Vantrease improved to 5-2 as a starter and surpassed 1,000 yards on the season.
Boasting two 1,000-yard rushers on the same team for the first time in program history — a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by a MAC team since 2012 — UB has raised the bar with 3,031 team rushing yards, sprinting past last year’s record total (2,648) in two fewer games. Their 465 rushing yards Saturday were an FBS-era record and the second-most in school history. The Bulls are ranked 11th in the country averaging 252.6 rushing yards per game, 26 more than the 1959 team’s high-watermark.
That 1959 season was the last time the Bulls had seven victories in a second straight season, a lengthy run without sustained success that coach Lance Leipold found notable in assessing what he and his staff have built in five years at UB.
UB is now 30-30 overall and 20-20 in MAC games in Leipold’s five regular seasons. He’s had more .500 or better seasons (three) than Turner Gill and Jeff Quinn combined for in nine years. With UB on its way to a bowl for the second straight year, Leipold also has as many postseason appearances as his two predecessors.
Considering the talent depletion and lack of experience on UB’s roster following heavy graduation and transfer losses, an unsettled quarterback situation, early-season injuries and a 2-4 start that tested the Bulls’ self-belief, this second-half surge reflects well on Leipold and his coaching staff, perhaps even more impressive than last season’s school-record 10 wins.
Also consider, UB won the MAC East with a 7-1 record in conference last year by outscoring opponents by 10.8 points per game. This year’s team had a 5-3 record with a +14.5 scoring margin.
UB will now wait to receive its postseason itinerary, most likely from one of the five bowls with MAC ties (Bahamas, Camellia, Cherry, Potato, LendingTree). The Bulls will find out Sunday if they have been chosen for a trip to the Bahamas and the Dec. 20 bowl game. Otherwise, the bowl picture won’t clarify for another week.