BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo saw a few crucial plays, and one long drive, spell the difference between victory and defeat in a 24-10 loss to visiting Central Florida on Saturday night.
The Knights (2-1) broke a 10-10 tie with a 15-play, 90-yard drive to score the go-ahead score midway through the fourth quarter, tacking on a late score for the final margin.
"We're obviously disappointed," said head coach Jeff Quinn. "Its certainly not what we expected tonight when we started this football game and the preparation after Baylor. I knew we had a real solid week of work, our kids were excited about playing this game and they continued to show me they care.
"They gave great effort but we need to get better, but it's not just on our players, but on me and our coaching staff," said Quinn.
The Bulls were stymied by some missed opportunities, driving inside the UCF 40-yard line on five occasions but mustering only 10 points. Quarterback Jerry Davis led the offense by throwing for 190 yards, including seven passes for 102 yards to junior receiver Marcus Rivers. Rivers went over 100 yards receiving for the second time this year.
The UB defense was excellent throughout the game, limiting UCF to a total of 288 yards. Senior safeties Davonte Shannon and Domonic Cook led the way with eight tackles each, while senior cornerback Josh Thomas had six tackles, including two for losses. Freshman linebacker Khalil Mack was a beast, contributing five tackles, a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, breaking up two passes and adding a quarterback hurry, while senior linebacker Justin Winters had five tackles, a pass breakup and a hurry.
Trailing 10-3 at intermission, the Bulls tied the game on their first possession of the third quarter, driving 80 yards in 14 plays. Davis helped himself, by rushing for 17 yards on a third-and-eight play while converting three key connections through the air.
Davis hit Rivers twice for a combined 31 yards and capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown toss to Terrell Jackson in the back of the end zone. Another key play on the drive was a pass interference on third down in the end zone that kept the drive alive, in addition to freshmen tight end Jake Reeder recovering a UB fumble at the three-yard line just before the touchdown.
The Bulls had an opportunity to break the tie midway through the third quarter, driving to the UCF 30-yard line, before Principe missed a 47-yard field goal.
The game remained tied until the fourth quarter when the Knights broke through with a 90-yard drive that was punctuated with a 14-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Weaver with 9:53 remaining in the game. UCF's drive took 15 plays and the Knights converted three third downs and a fourth down along the way.
UCF struck first in the game, after a promising first drive by the Bulls was snuffed out over midfield by a sack.
The Knights drove 54 yards and connected on a 39-yard field goal by Nick Cottoi to take a 3-0 lead with 4:10 left in the first quarter. The drive took 7:06 off the clock.
Buffalo responded with a time-consuming drive of their own that started with a career-long 47-yard kickoff return by junior wideout Terrell Jackson – who finished with 134 all-purpose yards in the game.
Starting at their own 49-yard line, Davis engineered a drive that tied the game. The sophomore quarterback completed three-of-four passes for 39 yards, including a huge 17-yard completion to Marcus Rivers on third-and-15 to keep the drive alive.
The Bulls stalled inside the UCF 20-yard line and senior kicker A.J. Principe came in to boot a 27-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3 with 11:57 remaining in the second quarter.
Buffalo's defense came up big on the next possession. After the Knights drove inside the Buffalo 40-yard line, Buffalo stopped UCF short on third-and-six, on a gang tackle by Steven Means and Domonic Cook on a screen play. On fourth-and-four, UCF went for it and freshman linebacker Khalil Mack knocked down a pass to end the drive.
However, on the very next play, the pendulum of momentum swung back to UCF as Bruce Miller intercepted a shovel pass and returned it 30 yards for the go ahead score. Though the Bulls would tie the game, they would never be able to gain the lead the rest of the way.