Bulls Dig Out Win Over The Miners
EL PASO, TX – The University at Buffalo football team turned back the clock to last year's heartstopping finishes and came away with a 23-17 win at the University of Texas-El Paso that came down to the game's final play before a crowd of 35,214 at the historic Sun Bowl.
Buffalo took control of the game by scoring 16 points in a span of 2:17 in the second quarter and once again limited UTEP's explosive offense to 17 points for the second straight year. Sophomore quarterback Zack Maynard (Greensboro, NC/Grimsley) , in his first career start, completed 12-of-19 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown and the Bulls rushed for 150 yards to grind out a victory.
The game ended on a desperation throw to the UB endzone that was knocked down to preserve the win. Moments earlier, UTEP thought they had tied the game, but a holding call negated the touchdown and the Bulls persevered.
"That was a typical Buffalo Bulls football game," said head coach Turner Gill. "I'm proud of this football team. For the defense to hold this team to 17 points is outstanding. Our guys capitalized on opportunities that presented themselves.
"I'm very proud of Zach Maynard as well," said Gill. "He played a very good football game and he's only going to get better. I liked what I saw, I liked his composure and the plays he made with his arm and feet. This a great win for our football team against a very good team."
The Miners took the opening kickoff and it appeared they may draw first blood in the game. Starting at their own 31-yard line, the Miners drove to the Buffalo 21-yard line before the UB defense rose up and UTEP committed two costly penalties. Junior cornerback Domonic Cook (Buffalo, NY/St. Joseph's) broke up a pass inside the 10-yard line, and the Bulls would benefit from two UTEP penalties that would force them into a 48-yard field goal that was short.
After the Bulls were forced to punt, UTEP did dent the scoreboard first. Taking advantage of a personal foul call on what would have been third-and-10, the Miners primarily used the ground game to get the ball inside the UB five-yard line where Jason Williams would punch it in from one-yard out with 5:07 remaining in the first quarter. After the PAT, the Miners led 7-0.
Buffalo got great field position on the ensuing possession as UTEP kicked the ball out of bounds, setting Buffalo up at their own 40-yard line. Maynard then went to work to get the Bulls' offense jumpstarted. Maynard connected on 4-of-5 passes on a 13-play scoring march that was capped off by a two-yard touchdown blast off right tackle by juniorBrandon Thermilus (Flower Mound, TX/Marcus) . Maynard twice hit senior flankerNaaman Roosevelt (Buffalo, NY/St. Joseph's) for key completions.
The Bulls special teams then helped keep the momentum on Buffalo's side. Senior special teams ace Chris Storr (Southfield, MI/Southfield) tackled UTEP's returner at the one-yard line. After three plays and a total of five yards, UTEP's punter bobbled a high snap and Pierre and sophomore Josh Copeland (Fairborn, OH/Fairborn) tackled UTEP in the end zone for a safety.
The special teams then changed the game again, as on the ensuing free kick, Cook took the ball at his own 15-yard line and weaved 55 yards through the UTEP coverage before finally being tackled at the Miners' 25-yard line. It was Cook's first career punt return. From there, it took just two plays as senior Mario Henry (Erie, PA/Strong Vincent) darted 19 yards on first down and over right tackle for six more yards and his first touchdown of the year. After an A.J. Principe (Columbus, OH/Geneva DeSales) extra point Buffalo led, 16-7, with 12:39 left in the half.
The Miners would reach the UB 20-yard line again later in the second quarter, but a 14-yard sack by junior Justin Winters (Greenbelt, MD/Eleanor Roosevelt) ended the threat.
The Bulls would go to halftime with a 16-7 halftime lead.
UB would get the kickoff to start the second half and would add to its lead with an impressive drive. The Bulls would pound the ball on the ground before hitting the Miners with a big play over the top. Thermilus would blast his way for 24 yards on three carries, before Maynard would perfectly execute a screen pass to Roosevelt against an all-out blitz. Roosevelt would zig-zag his way for 42 yards and a touchdown, the 20th of his record-breaking career. The Bulls led 23-7 with 12:13 remaining in the third quarter.
This time, however, the Miners had an answer. Going 80 yards in just nine plays, UTEP closed the gap again when James Thomas went 17 yards on a reverse for a score with 7:37 left in the third. After the PAT, Buffalo led 23-14.
Buffalo looked as though they would put more points on the board on the ensuing drive. The big play was a 23-yard pass from Maynard to fullback Lawrence Rolle (Bronx, NY/John F. Kennedy). However, the drive would stall at the Miner 33-yard line and the Bulls were forced to punt.
The Bulls' defense stiffened and did not allow a first down and the Bulls would get the ball back after a 12-yard punt return by Brett Hamlin (Jupiter, FL/William T. Dwyer) that set Buffalo up at its own 31-yard line.
The Bulls offense would then march again with the help of a couple of clutch third down conversion. On third-and-three at the UTEP 36, Maynard hit Roosevelt for a seven-yard gain and on third-and-two at the 21-yard line, Henry toughed out two yards to keep the drive alive. However, a 12-yard sack against Maynard stalled the drive and Principe missed wide left on a 40-yard field goal attempt with 9:24 remaining.
The Miners then cut the lead to six after taking over at their own 22-yard line. The Miners, behind the arm of Vittatoe, drove to the Buffalo 21-yard line. The Bulls got a key pass breakup by junior cornerback Sherrod Lott (Plant City, FL/Plant City) to help stall the drive and Logan Barrett kicked a 31-yard field goal with 5:45 remaining.
The Bulls then came very close to running out the remainder of the clock. Thermilus and Maynard combined to pick up a pair of first downs before the drive was stopped and the Bulls punted it away with UTEP starting at their own 20-yard line.
The Bulls' defense again came up big, stopping the Miners – and pair of "Hail Mary" passes in the final seconds to win. It was yet another game in the Turner Gill era that came down to the final play – after six games in the 2008 year.
BULL-etins: This was the second time the two teams have met, with Buffalo notching a 42-17 win at UB Stadium to open the season last year...the trip to El Paso was the fifth time the Bulls have played a game West of the Mississippi – the others being trips to Iowa (2003), Iowa State (1968), Nevada (2003) and Missouri (2008)...it was the first collegiate starts for sophomore Zach Maynard, sophomore Matt Ostrowski, senior Robert Colpoys, senior Matt Bacoulis and senior Kevin Johnson...the safety was the first for Buffalo since Sept. 27, 2008 when Tom Drewes blocked a Central Michigan punt out of the end zone..the second quarter touchdown by Mario Henry was just the second of his career, and his first since the 2007 season at Temple...the UTEP miscue in the end zone was the second straight game that the Miners punter was tackled by Buffalo behind the line of scrimmage...Justin Winters sack in the second quarter was the third of his career and the first for the Bulls this season...sophomore Gordon DuBois recorded his first tackle for loss of his career in the second quarter...the first touchdown pass of Zack Maynard's career was a 42-yard touchdown toss to Naaman Roosevelt. ..that touchdown was the 20th of Roosevelt's career, breaking the career mark that he previously held with Chris D'Amico (1980-84) and Jamie Gasparre (1996-97)...fullback Lawrence Rolle had his first career catch in the third quarter and it covered 23 yards. The walk-on played also played a key role in the UB running attack...cornerback Sherrod Lott had a career-high three pass breakups in the game...Roosevelt also went over the 200-reception mark for his career in the second quarter...senior safety Mike Newton – with four solo tackles – moved into eighth place with 149...it was Buffalo's first road victory to open the season since a win over Brockport State in 1980.