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Buffalo rallies behind 24 unanswered points to down Toledo, 31-17

Bulls off to best start in program history since joining the FBS ranks.

NCAA Football: Army at Buffalo Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Lance Leipold and the Buffalo Bulls’ dream season is still rolling.

As road warriors, the Bulls preserved their perfect record as visitors this season in a 31-17 win over the reigning MAC champion Toledo Rockets. It was a one-sided effort in the second half, as Buffalo outscored the home team 24-0 in the game’s final 30 minutes.

Trailing by as many as 10 points at halftime, the Bulls completely reversed the direction of the game en route to a program-best 7-1 start. On the other sideline, Toledo dropped its third-straight contest to fall to 3-4 — the Rockets’ worst start since their 3-9 campaign in 2008.

Penalties and a lackluster offense were reprehensible in pushing the Rockets below .500. Toledo registered 148 penalty yards and only accumulated eight first downs, compared to Buffalo’s 32. The Rockets couldn’t seem to travel anywhere on third downs, faring just 1-of-12 on such critical plays.

The passing game was absent. Mitchell Guadagni started the game 2/4 before backup quarterback Eli Peters checked in and finished 5/17. Nearly Toledo’s entire offensive output was produced by two plays.

The first one, which started the scoring in the afternoon, involved Bryant Koback breaking apart from the line of scrimmage and dashing straight to the end zone for 70 yards. Before this run, the longest rush of the Toledo season by a running back stood at 28 yards.

Peters passed for only 128 yards, but 80 of them were recorded on a bomb down the left sideline to the speedy Diontae Johnson. Johnson sprinted into the end zone to put the Rockets up 17-7 at that point — the team’s largest lead of the game.

On the play prior to the 80-yard touchdown pass, Buffalo’s Adam Mitcheson hooked a field goal left of the uprights. Kicking was a struggle for Buffalo in this game (1/3), but Mitcheson tied the program record for most field goals made in a career during the victory.

Buffalo’s potent offense was fueled by star wideout Anthony Johnson. Johnson scored the Bulls’ first touchdown of the game on a 34-yard strike to the back-center of the end zone.

Then, in the third quarter, after a strong punt return by K.J. Osborn, Jackson connected with Johnson on a crossing route. No. 83 avoided a litany of Toledo defenders after the catch and finished with flare to the right sideline for a 32-yard score for the game-tying score, 17-17.

On the ensuing play from scrimmage, a Jon’Vea Johnson gifted the ball right back to the Bulls. Although a missed field goal spoiled the drive, Buffalo (+9 turnover margin on the year) was able to haul in a key interception on Toledo’s next possession. Wide receiver Cody Thompson ran into a Buffalo defender during his route, and free safety Brandon Williams easily caught the lob and carried it into Toledo territory.

Running back Jaret Patterson, who led all runners with 90 yards on the ground, carried it in for a 6-yard score to flip the game into Buffalo’s favor. Toledo’s offense for the rest of the game exclusively finished in three-and-outs.

Thanks to favorable field position, Buffalo was able to score once more on a 25-yard Patterson carry.

Buffalo escaped the Glass Bowl with a 31-17 victory after a sloppy first half performance. The Bulls won the turnover battle 4-3 and the team’s strong defense, led by linebackers Khalil Hodge and James Patterson (22 combined tackles), managed to stop Toledo in its tracks and force eight Rocket punts.

With three interceptions, it wasn’t Jackson’s most accurate day through the air. But the 6’7” quarterback achieved a season-high 326 yards and got Osborn and Johnson involved to combine for 173 receiving yards.

The win already pushes Buffalo past its win total from a year ago, while Toledo’s loss ensures the Rockets will finish with a worse record than they did in 2017.

Buffalo returns to action in a midweek October 30 against Miami (OH), while Toledo aims to return to .500 at Western Michigan on Thursday, October 25.