RedHawks Hold off Bulls, 21-9
BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo showed glimpses of breaking through, but the Miami RedHawks made the crucial plays when it counted and held on for a 21-9 win on a blustery day at UB Stadium before 12,786 fans.
Despite winning the turnover battle, 2-1, the Buffalo offense could not get untracked long enough to pull out the victory. True freshman quarterback Alex Zordich made some outstanding plays, completing 16-of-33 passes for 210 yards and scored his first collegiate touchdown. However, five sacks and failures on key fourth downs (0-for-3) kept the UB offense from denting the scoreboard further. Miami improved to 5-4 overall and 4-1 in conference play.
"We didn't play well enough to win, we didn't make the plays when we needed to make the plays," said head coach Jeff Quinn. "Give credit to Miami and their players they made the plays when they needed to and there was a difference in that aspect. I know this, our team definitely cares, they want to succeed and they want to be successful and these are tough times and we are going to fight through it."
On a day that featured wind gusts of up to 40 MPH, Miami got the key points on a one-handed touchdown catch with just :22 left in the first half. It was the only points scored into the wind in the game.
The Bulls' defense turned in another solid effort, limiting Miami to 297 total yards and forcing a pair of interceptions by safeties Davonte Shannon and Domonic Cook. Cook's interception was his sixth of the season – and the fifth straight game he has forced a turnover, which leads the nation. He came into the game tied for first in the nation in interceptions.
Said Quinn of his two senior safeties, "They have both been outstanding back there and just opportunistic. Dom Cook is one of the best football players that I have ever coached and same thing really with Davonte (Shannon), both those kids have done a tremendous job for us and taking the ball away which is what you hope and expect. Davonte Shannon is a three-time All-MAC player so when I came in here I was expecting those kinds of things to take place. I knew Dom was capable of doing that also. We rely very heavily on them, they have taken the opportunity and they have taken themselves to another level. We challenge them to competitive greatness and they have been able to do it for us."
Offensively, junior flanker Terrell Jackson had 72 yards receiving on seven catches, matching his career high in receptions. Marcus Rivers had three catches for 44 yards and Branden Oliver added two receptions for 52 yards.
Buffalo's first points of the game came with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter when senior kicker John Rachuna booted a 52-yard field goal, the longest of his career. The kick tied for the second longest in school history and the longest by a Bull since moving up to Division I-A. The drive covered 41 yards with the big play being a 34-yard pass from Zordich to fellow freshman Branden Oliver.
The Bulls defense grabbed the momentum with cornerback Sherrod Lott breaking up a third down pass to force a punt. Miami punter Zac Murphy then uncorked a six-yard punt that the wind rejected back to the Miami 33-yard line.
On Buffalo's next possession, after an 18-yard completion from Zordich to Oliver, the freshman quarterback did it himself, rushing 12 yards around left end, escorted by receiver Marcus Rivers, into the end zone for his first career score. The PAT kick was no good, however, and Buffalo trailed 14-9 with :56 left in the third quarter.
However, with the wind in the fourth quarter, Miami had another big play in the them. Dysert connected on a 40-yard pass to Chris Givens to the UB two-yard line and one plays later Thomas Merriweather scored to put Miami up by the winning final margin.
The Bulls had a golden opportunity to climb back into it on Miami's next possession. Cook intercepted Dystert at the Miami 39-yard line with 7:19 remaining. After moving to the Miami 15 – on an 11-yard run and a 13-yard pass to Mike Marr, Buffalo was stopped on four straight passes – two of them broken up in the end zone by Miami – before a sack on fourth down ended UB's hopes.
The RedHawks opened the scoring midway through the first quarter after taking advantage of the blustery conditions. Miami got a drive start at the Bulls' 45-yard line after a punt into the stiff breeze.
Quarterback Zak Dysert finished the 45-yard drive with a five-yard scoring pass to Nick Hartwell on a quick slant with 7:40 remaining in the first quarter.
As they have many times this season, the UB defense changed the momentum late in the first quarter. Shannon picked off a Dysert pass – his third pick of the season – and returned the ball 26 yards to the UB 41-yard line. The Bulls appeared ready to get on the scoreboard, as Zordich hit tight end Aaron Connacher on a 16-yard connection on third-and-six. However, the Bulls went for it on fourth-and-one at the Miami 25-yard line, but fell about an inch short and turned the ball over on downs on the first play of the second quarter.
Buffalo threatened again in the second quarter, but after a Zordich to Terrell Jackson 25-yard hook up moved the ball to the Miami 36-yard line, Zordich suffered back to back-to-back sacks that took UB out of field goal range.
Late in the second quarter, the Bulls saw a turnover change fortunes. After controlling the majority of play in the quarter, UB was hurt by a turnover when Zordich fumbled the ball near the sideline with Miami recovering at their own 46-yard line.
The RedHawks took advantage of the turnover when Dysert threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Harwell, who made a one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone with :22 left in the half.
It appeared that the Bulls had scored on the ensuing kickoff as Ed Young went down the right sideline 68 yards for a touchdown. However, replay showed Young to have stepped out of bounds at the Miami 45-yard line. After a 15-yard penalty against Miami, UB kicker A.J. Principe missed a 47-yard field goal on the last play of the half to leave Miami ahead at intermission 14-0.
Buffalo falls to 2-6 and 1-3 in the Mid-American Conference with the loss. Buffalo will travel to Ohio on Thursday night for a 7:30 pm kickoff on ESPNU.