It's just Khalil Mack's world, and we're just living in it.
Six months from now, Mack will almost certainly be among the first 32 players selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, and if you need evidence regarding how he's earned this lofty status, all you have to do is watch a replay of Tuesday night's contest in Oxford, Ohio.
The Buffalo Bulls dominated the Miami RedHawks in their final true road game of the 2013 season, but when the game mattered, it was essentially a one-man show. In the first half alone, Mack had three sacks and three forced fumbles as Buffalo built a 28-0 lead at halftime. The Bulls cruised from there and eventually won 44-7.
Mack's first forced fumble tied the NCAA career record at 14. His subsequent two forced fumbles gave Mack 16 and left him alone as the NCAA career leader. His three sacks brought him to within 2.5 tackles-for-loss from the career NCAA record in that category, and he will have either two or three more games to break it.
In all, Mack's effort helped Buffalo hold Miami to just 77 yards and four first downs in the first half. The defensive production also allowed the Bulls' offense a chance to find itself. Joe Licata and company struggled early, and the game was scoreless after one quarter.
The Bulls had to punt on their first two drives and only gained 54 total yards. However, on their third possession, Buffalo took over at the Miami 45. After a holding penalty on the first play, Licata led Buffalo on a 54-yard march to the RedHawks' 1-yard line by the end of the first quarter. Licata then completed a third-down pass to Alex Dennison on the second play of the second quarter for a one-yard touchdown. Patrick Clarke's extra point gave the Bulls a 7-0 lead.
After Miami punted for the fourth time in four possessions, Licata led his offense on a 10-play, 71-yard drive for another touchdown. Miami helped the effort by committing a pass interference penalty on a third-down play from the Miami 38. Branden Oliver capped the drive with a one-yard run for a 14-0 lead.
Miami's next drive began with a sack of quarterback Austin Gearing. Gearing followed that play with a keeper, but after gaining 12 yards, he was stripped of the ball by Mack. Cortney Lester recovered for Buffalo to create the first takeaway of the game. Six plays later, Oliver scored his second touchdown of the quarter on a ten-yard run.
The teams exchanged punts, and with 2:29 left in the half, Miami finally put together a drive into Buffalo territory. David Frazier caught a 35-yard pass from Gearing that put the ball at the Bulls' 25. Unfortunately, Gearing was sacked by Mack (again) on second down. The sack forced a fumble, which Okoye Houston recovered and returned for a 60-yard touchdown. The turnover-turned-touchdown gave the Bulls a 28-0 lead at halftime.
In the second half, Buffalo kicked three field goals before getting their final points on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Tony Daniel to Devon Hughes. Miami got its only score of the game on their final possession. Drew Kummer started the drive with a 16-yard run, and Robert Williams III followed with a 47-yard jaunt of his own. On second-and-goal, Kummer kept the ball for a two-yard touchdown run and the game's final margin of 44-7.
Buffalo out-gained Miami 517-200 and ran 90 plays to Miami's 54. In fact, Buffalo ran the ball one fewer time than Miami's number of total plays. Those 53 runs gained 311 yards and 17 first downs -- eight more first downs than Miami had in total. Buffalo also had 206 passing yards to just 65 by Miami. On third down, Buffalo converted on 11 of 18 attempts. Miami was successful on just one of ten tries.
Licata finished the game with 20 completions in 32 attempts. He gained 172 yards and had one touchdown and one interception. Oliver carried the ball 26 times for 150 yards and earned two touchdowns. Of those carries, 21 occurred in the first half. Anthone Taylor added 154 yards on 17 carries in a dominating second half. Ten different players caught a pass, led by Fred Lee and his four catches for 61 yards.
Mack's eight tackles, three sacks and three forced fumbles led Buffalo's defensive effort, but he was not alone. Houston, Okezie Alozie, Tedroy Lynch and Kristja Sokoli also recorded sacks. Jarrett Franklin joined in with a forced fumble, and Jake Stockman earned an interception.
For Miami, Austin Gearing was just 5-for-19 with 65 passing yards and one interception. Kummer misfired on his only pass attempt of the game. Gearing also had 21 carries for a net gain of 40 yards. Kummer added 25 yards, and Williams finished the game with 48 yards on three carries. David Frazier cuaght three of Miami's five completed passes, and those went for 52 yards. On defense, three players had double-digit tackles, led by Josh Dooley with 13. J'Terius Brown had Miami's only sack, and Heath Harding intercepted Licata for the RedHawks' only takeaway.
Miami drops to 0-11 overall and 0-7 in MAC play with the loss. Their final chance for a win in the 2013 season will take place in Muncie, Ind. on Friday, Nov. 29th when they play the Ball State Cardinals.
Buffalo improves to 8-3 overall and 6-1 in the MAC after this win. They can now look ahead to playing the Bowling Green Falcons on Friday, Nov. 29th at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium. The game will be a winner-take-all contest for the MAC East title and a spot in the MAC Championship Game.