The Western Michigan Broncos gave a valiant defensive effort in the first half but could not sustain it under the weight of constant failures by their offense in a loss to the Buffalo Bulls in Kalamazoo, Mich. on Saturday afternoon. In the second half, the Bulls picked on every Bronco mistake and ultimately steamrolled to a 33-0 victory.
On the game's opening possession, Buffalo's Joe Licata led the Bulls' offense on a 12-play, 63-yard drive for a touchdown that took 5:33 off the game clock. Licata ran for 10 yards and completed two passes for 28 yards on the drive, while Brandon Oliver carried four times for 19 yards. Devin Campbell capped the march with a one-yard scoring run, but the Patrick Clarke extra point was blocked.
After the blocked extra point, the offense stopped until midway through the second quarter. The teams traded punts on the next eight possessions, with none of the drives going longer than 39 yards.
Finally, WMU began to move the ball in the second quarter. Zach Terrell, filling in for an injured Tyler Van Tubbergen, completed passes of 17 yards to Corey Davis and 16 yards to Josh Schaffer. However, on 1st-and-10 from the Buffalo 28, Terrell was intercepted by Buffalo's Najja Johnson to end the drive.
A 31-yard pass from Licata to Fred Lee immediately moved the ball into WMU territory, and a nine-yard pass to Brandon Oliver gave the Bulls a 2nd-and-1 from the WMU 29. Three more plays lost a total of two yards, though, and the Bulls turned the ball back over to Western Michigan on downs.
Once again, the Broncos were able to march into Buffalo territory and actually reached the red zone, but the drive stalled at the 16. Andrew Haldeman's 33-yard field goal attempt missed wide right, and Buffalo took their 6-0 lead to halftime.
The second half was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster for Western Michigan. Three of their first five possessions in the half ended in turnovers, and while Buffalo was scoring 27 points to build a 33-0 lead, WMU ran 19 plays for a grand total of 16 yards. The Broncos totaled 45 yards in the entire second half, and 29 of those came on their final possession.
Terrell was intercepted by Marqus Baker on the third play of the half, and Patrick Clarke kicked a 51-yard field goal to make the score 9-0. On the next drive, Khalil Mack sacked Terrell, who fumbled the ball away. Adam Redden recovered for Buffalo, and Licata easily drove the Bulls 39 yards for a touchdown. His pass to Mason Schreck provided a 16-0 edge just six minutes into the half.
WMU's next two drives ended in meek punts, and Buffalo scored after each. On the first, James Potts ran four times for 25 yards before Licata connected with Fred Lee for a 28-yard touchdown. Licata then connected with Alex Neutz for a two-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to give the Bulls a 30-0 lead. Four plays later, Terrell fumbled again. Mack recovered for Buffalo, and backups on offense moved the team into range for Clarke, whose 36-yard field goal provided the game's final points.
Buffalo outgained Western Michigan 422-202, and that included a 290-38 edge on the ground. The Bulls committed nine penalties for 110 yards but made up for it in other ways. They had a 4-0 edge in takeaways, held WMU to no points in two red zone opportunities, and converted on three different fourth-down attempts.
Licata completed just 11 of his 21 pass attempts, but those 11 completions included three touchdown passes and went for 124 yards. He found seven different receivers with completions, and only one player (Fred Lee) had more than two receptions or 14 yards. Lee ended the game with four catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Oliver had an outstanding game and led all players with 128 rushing yards on 19 carries. James Potts also contributed with 16 carries for 91 yards.
On defense, the Bulls compiled six tackles for loss, and that included five sacks. Colby Way had three sacks for 25 yards, while Tedroy Lynch and Khalil Mack each had one. Mack also had a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a pass break-up. His six total tackles tied with Cortney Lester for the team lead.
Zach Terrell passed for just 164 yards for the Broncos. He had 16 completions in 34 attempts but was sacked five times and threw two interceptions. Perhaps the best effort by a WMU player on offense was put in by Corey Davis, who recorded eight catches for 92 yards. On the ground, Dareyon Chance carried the ball nine times for 54 yards to lead WMU runners. The defense, which created 12 tackles-for-loss (but still managed to give up 33 points), was paced by Justin Currie (15 tackles) and Mike Jones (14).
With their win, Buffalo improves to 4-2 overall and 2-0 in Mid-American Conference play. Thanks to the loss by Ohio University, the Bulls now occupy sole possession of second place in the MAC's Eastern Division. They've also now won by 29, 28 and 33 points since their 5-overtime win against Stony Brook. The Bulls host Massachusetts next week at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN3.
Western Michigan's loss drops the Broncos to 0-7 overall and 0-3 in the MAC. The team hosts Ball State next Saturday at 2:00 p.m. on ESPN3 before going on the road for perhaps their two best chances to win in 2013. Following the Cardinals, WMU plays at UMass and Eastern Michigan.