BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo football team came up just short in its bid to upset Toledo, falling to the Rockets, 25-20, at a rainy UB Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Buffalo had three offensive weapons back in its arsenal as Branden Oliver, Alex Neutz and Fred Lee were all back in the starting lineup. Playing in his first game since Sept. 19, Oliver finished with 101 yards on 24 carries. Neutz, who missed the last game with a chest injury, had six catches for 135 yards and a touchdown.
Buffalo came out with a great defensive game plan to stop the high-octane offense of the Rockets. The Bulls held Toledo to just 115 yards of offense in the first half.
Cortney Lester put the Bulls on the board first as he intercepted a pass and scampered 23 yards for a touchdown with 7:48 left in the first quarter.
Toledo answered back with a defensive touchdown of its own as Dan Molls returned a UB fumble 13 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.
Toledo, the MAC's third ranked scoring offense, got into gear in the second half, scoring on each of its first two second half possessions and rolling up 243 yards of total offense, including 146 yards on the ground, in the third quarter alone.
Lockport native David Fluellen, who finished with a career-high 228 yards rushing, scored both of the Rockets' early third quarter touchdowns. Steven Means blocked both extra points, but the Bulls were trailing, 19-14, with 8:11 left in the third quarter.
An 84-yard drive by the Rockets was capped by a Terrance Owens to Alex Zmolik 7-yard touchdown pass and Toledo extended its lead to 25-14 late in the third quarter.
With Joe Licata behind center, the Bulls mounted a 7-play, 73-yard drive, punctuated by an 8-yard touchdown pass from Licata to Neutz. Although the two-point conversion failed, the Bulls trailed just 25-20 with 14:48 left in the game.
The Bulls had their chances, but couldn't convert late in the game and the Rockets (8-1, 5-0 MAC) held on for their eighth straight win.
"Obviously no words can describe how difficult it is to come off that field with a loss," head coach Jeff Quinn said. "It was certainly a hard-fought battle, two very good football teams went at it, and I give Toledo credit. They're a good football team. Their third quarter effort was really the difference in the football game."
In the starting lineup for the second straight week, safety Derek Brim led the Bulls in tackles with a career-high nine. Lee Skinner added eight tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Colby Way had two of the Bulls' seven tackles for loss in the game. Adam Redden had his first career interception with a pick in the second quarter.
It was Oliver's 11th career 100-yard rushing game, moving him just two shy of the school record for 100-yard games, held by Anthony Swan (1994-97). Neutz's eighth touchdown catch of the season moved him into eighth place in school history for a single season.
Coming into the game, Toledo's Bernard Reedy ranked in the top 20 in the nation in punt returns. However, the Bulls kept him in check, allowing just one return for negative six yards. Tyler Grassman had five punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
Buffalo (1-7, 0-4 MAC) will next host Miami (OH) at UB Stadium next Saturday.