BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo football team had a couple of important concepts to get back in the winning column.
One was striking early against a struggling Akron team and the other was to get Branden Oliver closer to the single-season school rushing record.
Check and check.
The Bulls used a 93-yard kickoff return on the game's first play by Brandon Murie and a Division I-A record 235 yards rushing by Oliver to dominate the Zips, 51-10, on Saturday in a Mid-American Conference contest at UB Stadium. The 51 points were the most Buffalo has scored in a MAC game and the most since UB hung 60 points on Central Connecticut State in 1992.
The heroes were abundant for Buffalo, but none stood taller than the 5-8, 200-pound Oliver, the sophomore from Miami, FL who continued his sensational season with a record-breaking effort. Oliver had 29 carries for 235 yards, scored two touchdowns and added 38 yards receiving for a total of 273 all-purpose yards. The 235 yards rushing were the most by a Bull in since moving to Division I-A in 1999, surpassing current Green Bay Packer James Starks' 231 yards vs. Toledo in 2007. His 273 yards of all-purpose offense (including 38 receiving) are second to Drew Haddad in school history (276 vs. Cornell in 1998). Oliver's 235 yards are second most in school history to only Alan Bell's 266 yards in 1991.
After Murie's rousing 93-yard kickoff return to start the game, Oliver scored the game's first touchdown from one yard out and the Bulls were off and running.
The other offensive hero for Buffalo was sophomore wideout Fred Lee. Lee had a career-high six receptions for 52 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His second touchdown came on an acrobatic 10-yard catch to put the Bulls up 14-0.
The Buffalo defense also forced two turnovers with the biggest coming with Buffalo holding a 14-3 edge in the second quarter. Najja Johnson stepped in front of an Akron pass near his goal line and returned it 31 yards. The Bulls would get one of three Patrick Clarke field goals – he hit from 41, 49 and 26 yards in the game – to go ahead 17-3 and were never threatened thereafter.
The Bulls defense had one of their finest performances of the season, limiting Akron to 239 yards of total offense. Khalil Mack was a force once again, racking up five solo tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and a blocked punt. The Bulls front seven dominated the line of scrimmage as defensive end Colby Way led the unit with six tackles, including two tackles for loss.
Quarterback Chazz Anderson completed 19-of-25 passes for 155 yards and threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another. He now has accounted for 17 total touchdowns on the season. Of note was the play of the UB tight ends – Alex Dennison, Jimmy Gordon and Aaron Connacher – who contributed six catches on the day for 40 yards.
The Bulls accounted for a season-high 331 yards rushing in the game. Junior Jeffvon Gill came of the bench to rush for 49 yards on 13 carries, while Murie added two for 15 yards.
"I couldn't be more proud of our entire football program, our coaches and our players to put on the kind of performance we saw today," said head coach Jeff Quinn. "I couldn't be more proud of the way they hung in there all year and to be able to have this kind of game. We put it all together, all three phases of the game, and it started out with the first play of the game with Brandon Murie and a big-time kickoff return down to their one-yard line. I knew right from that point our kids were ready to play. To put 50 points on an East Divisional rival team says a lot about our kids and now what we have to do is to have that same energy and same mindset to carry over to next Friday and Bowling Green."
Oliver goes into next week's season finale against Bowling Green just 65 yards behind Starks single-season record of 1,333 yards.
"Bo inspires us, its exciting just when you call his number and he's got the ball in his hands," said Quinn. "You just don't know what's going to happen, that's how exciting he is."
Kickoff for Bowling Green is set for 12 pm at UB Stadium.
BULL-etins: Today's captains were Jacob Schum, Lee Skinner, Najja Johnson and Graham Whinery…Brandon Murie's 93 yard return on the opening kickoff was the longest kickoff return of the season for UB and it was the longest since Ernest Jackson's 97 yard return for a touchdown at Missouri Sept. 20, 2008…Fred Lee filled in admirably as Chazz Anderson's security blanket for the game, pulling down career highs in passes (6) and yards (52). His 10-yard touchdown reception midway through the first quarter was the first of his career and he added another highlight-reel catch on a fade in the second half…the tight end position emerged as a great short-yardage option for the UB offense, catching six passes for 40 yards as a group. Jimmy Gordon caught two passes, Alex Dennison caught a career-high three and Aaron Connacher also had a reception…after a fast start for Khalil Mack, opposing offenses began to literally run away, but on Saturday he was able to make an impact. Held without a sack for the past four games, he dragged down Akron QB Clayton Moore on third down to force an Akron punt in the first quarter. He then forced a fumble on another sack that the defense recovered…it was the seventh forced fumble of his career, tying the program career record. It was the fifth of the season, leaving him alone for second in the single-season list…the sophomore linebacker finished the game with five solo tackles (three for loss) and two sacks with a blocked punt added in for good measure. His 31.5 career tackles for loss are good for eighth…Oliver's 235 yards on the ground mark is just the second time in the program's Division IA history that a running back has eclipsed 200 and he now owns the single-game Div. IA record, passing James Starks' previous high of 231. With the big day, he is now seventh all time in career yards on the ground, with 1,546 yards…his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season is tied for the most in a single season with Anthony Swan (1996) and O.D. Underwood (1986). His season total now stands at 1,268 yards, the second most in program history behind only James Starks' 1,333 yards in 2008. His 12 touchdowns are tied for fourth most in a single season by a Buffalo rusher and his 272 rushing attempts are tied with James Starks in 2008 for most attempts in a single season…Chazz Anderson became the seventh QB to go over 200 completions in a season, sitting fifth overall with 215. He's also sixth in single-season passing yardage with 2,297. After running for a score and passing for two, his 17 combined touchdowns (run and pass) rank sixth most in a single season. The senior finished with 19 completions for 155 yards and a completion percentage of 76 percent…Najja Johnson's first career interception came at an opportune time for UB, as he snagged a fade pass just outside the end zone as Akron was driving for the score early in the second quarter. He finished the game with a pass breakup along with the pick…his 15 passes defended on the season are tied for second with Mike Chichester (1996) and just one behind Dave Short's career mark set in 1990…placekicker Patrick Clarke continues to gain confidence after being handed the everyday kicking duties. He hit field goals from 26, 41 and 49 yards in the first half alone…the team racked up 30 points in the first half, the best first half total of the season and the most against a FBS opponent since scoring 36 against Toledo on Oct. 13, 2007.