With crucial MAC East standings on the line, the Buffalo Bulls (3-5, 1-3 MAC) made trek to take on the Akron Zips (4-4, 3-1 MAC). Coming into the game, Akron was tied for first in the MAC East, each 3-1 in the conference. Buffalo is desperately looking for wins to get back toward the top of the standings.
Buffalo was blessed by the return of quarterback Tyree Jackson. His presence alone seemed to give the Bulls a much-needed boost of momentum for the day. Jackson was able to put the ball up in the air all day. By the end of the day, Tyree Jackson went 34-for-50 for 313 yards and an interception. Jackson had eight different receivers in to get catches. Kamathi Holsey led the Bulls with seven catches for 100 yards. Part of the success was due to Akron defensive back Alvin Davis leaving the game early on a targeting penalty.
With all the success in passing, Buffalo saw little need to run the ball. Nevertheless, head coach Lance Leipold opted to run to set up the potent passing game. Akron linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III kept a keen eye on the rushing game, keeping the Bulls limited to 146 rushing yards as a team. Emmanuel Reed led the Bulls with 116 yards and a touchdown.
Adam Mitcheson was excellent for the Bulls, making both extra points and two field goals. He connected from 36 and 37 yards out, but missed from 46 yards out. Punting duties for Buffalo were handled by Kyle DeWeen four times. DeWeen managed two punts inside the 20-yard line, but also had a rugby-style punt go only 18 yards.
Terry Bowden’s offense was focused more on passing, especially in the second half. Thomas Woodson had a very efficient night, going 21-for-29 for 291 yards. Woodson had three touchdowns and an interception. A.J. Coney was Woodson’s favorite target, accounting for seven receptions for 91 yards. Austin Wolf, Fransohn Bickley, and Kevin Gladney each recorded receiving touchdowns.
Akron also saw little need to run, except to set up the pass. Deltron Sands actually led the Zips in rushing, despite being listed as a back-up. Sands racked up 70 yards on seven carries. Akron put together 81 yards as a team, but did not score any rushing touchdowns.
Tom O’Leary made all three extra points for the Zips, but missed the lone field goal attempt from 37 yards away. Nick Gasser punted four times, pinning the Buffalo Bulls inside their own 20-yard line twice.
Akron came out swinging big first in the first quarter with a long drive. Unfortunately, Tom O’Leary missed the 37-yard field goal that would have given them the lead. Buffalo rode the ensuing momentum down the field for a two-yard Emmanuel Reed touchdown. Down 7-0, Akron responded with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Thomas Woodson to Fransohn Bickley. Buffalo responded, but had to settle for a 37-yard field goal, taking a 10-7 lead. Tyree Jackson looked to increase the Bulls’ lead, but was stopped short by a Jordan George interception. Akron’s drive was capped by a long Thomas Woodson touchdown pass to Austin Wolf. Buffalo put up another field goal just before the half to make the score 14-13 in Akron’s favor.
A scoreless third quarter was a strategic battle of field position. At the start of the fourth quarter, Buffalo finished their drive off with a ten-yard touchdown run from Emmanuel Reed. Akron led a quick drive that met a dead end when Buffalo’s Tim Roberts intercepted a Thomas Woodson pass. One stalled Buffalo drive later, the Akron Zips swiftly flew downfield in just six plays. Kevin Gladney caught his own touchdown pass despite defensive pass interference to give Akron the 21-20 lead late in the game. Buffalo led a methodical drive into field goal territory, but a faulty 46-yard kick from Adam Mitcheson allowed Akron to take the victory.
Akron (5-4, 4-1 MAC) will have about a week-and-a-half to prepare for the trip to play the Miami-Ohio RedHawks (3-5, 2-2 MAC). Akron is now in the lead of the MAC East, and is one win away from bowl eligibility. Buffalo (3-6, 1-4 MAC) will also be participating in Tuesday night MACtion. The Bulls will host the Bowling Green Falcons (1-7, 1-3 MAC).