Falcons Put a Damper on Oliver’s record-setting day
BUFFALO, NY – On a wind-swept day at UB Stadium, Bowling Green's efficiency with the breeze at their back overcame Branden Oliver's one-man assault of the Bulls' record book as the Falcons left UB Stadium with a 42-28 Mid-American Conference victory.
The Falcons scored on four straight possessions with the howling 20-30 mile per hour breeze at their back starting late in the second quarter and into the third to overcome an early Buffalo lead and Oliver's record-breaking day.
Oliver, the sophomore from Miami, FL, went over 200 yards of all-purpose yardage for the second straight game. Oliver ran for 127 yards on 34 carries and accounted for a career-best 92 yards on six receptions for a total of 219 all-purpose yards. For the game, Oliver became the single-season leader in rushing attempts (306), rshing yards (1,395 rushing yards, breaking the school mark of 1,333 by James Starks in 2008), all-purpose yards (1,760, breaking Starks' record of 1,694) and 100-yard rushing games in season (8).
Oliver broke the record in the second quarter and also scored from six yards that quarter to give Buffalo a 17-7 lead at that point. The touchdown was his 13th of the season, which is fourth best all-time for a single season.
The Bulls got the first score of the game with its defense on the field. Junior defensive ends Steven Means made a tremendous athletic play, breaking up a screen pass, tipping the ball in the air and then snatching it and returning it 42 yards for his first career touchdown. It was Means' second career interception.
However, after racing out to the 10-point lead, the Bulls could not hold the momentum. Bowling Green (5-7, 3-5 in the MAC) got things going by blocking a punt inside the Bulls' 30-yard line midway through the second quarter. BG quarterback Matt Schilz, who would throw for 236 yards and four touchdowns despite the strong winds, connected on a 28-yard touchdown throw to Eugene Cooper to cut the lead to 17-14.
The Bulls would respond the following drive behind the hard-charging Oliver, who converted two first downs with churning runs. An eight-yard gain on third-and-one at the BGSU 36-yard line set the school single-season rushing record. The drive would culminate in a 27-yard field goal by freshman Patrick Clarke. Clarke made all six of his field goals on the season after taking over the placekicking duties at Eastern Michigan three weeks ago.
The Falcons would get their offensive footing late in the first half, as they capped a 74-yard drive with a touchdown with :23 left in the half to take the lead, 21-20, into the half. BG would carry that momentum into the second half as they would score on three of their first four offensive possessions to take control of the game.
It would be the final game of their careers for 20 seniors who were honored before the game for their contributions to Bulls' football. Senior safety Josh Copeland led the Bulls with seven tackles, while another senior, Fred Branch added five stops. Freshman linebacker Lee Skinner had seven tackles, while sophomore standout Khalil Mack wrapped up a huge season with five tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry. He concluded the season with 20.5 tackles for loss, second most in school history and had 1.5 tackles for loss or more in eight games.
"Obviously it's a very disappointing loss and we have 20 seniors who are very hurt right now," said head coach Jeff Quinn. "feel bad for our seniors to go out the way they did. We need to find a way to better this program and that is going to be our main focus in the off-season."
BULL-etins: Today's captains were seniors Richie Smith, Matt Ostrowski, Fred Branch and Chazz Anderson…defensive end Steven Means returned an interception 42 yards for the score in the first quarter to give UB a 10-0 lead. It was his second career interception and it was the first Buffalo interception returned for a touchdown since Gordon DuBois returned a pick 27 yards against Northern Illinois Oct. 16 2010. Cortney Lester added another pick in the first quarter, his second career interception…with his 13th touchdown run of the season in the second quarter, Branden Oliver now sits alone in fourth place on the program's single-season touchdown list, passing Lee Jones, James Starks and Pat Whitehead…aside from his new honor as the single season rushing leader, Oliver also continued his assault on the career rushing list, vaulting into the top five now with 1,673 yards in his two seasons. He passed Buffalo legends Willie Evans (1957-59), who had 1,559, and Lee Jones (1965-67) and his 1,570 yards. He also has eight games with over 100 yards rushing this season, setting yet another program mark. He had previously been tied for the most with two other players…with 2.5 tackles for loss, sophomore Iinebacker Khalil Mack now has 20.5 tackles for loss this season, second most in a single season to Vince Canosa's 21.5 in 1994. He finished the game with five tackles (four solo) and a quarterback hurry to go with his stops behind the line. He moves into the top five for career tackles for loss, totaling 34 through his first two seasons…sophomore cornerback Najja Johnson tied the school record for most passes defended in a season, with 16. He matches Dave Short's total from 1990. Johnson totaled 15 pass breakups and one interception in his strong sophomore campaign.