The Buffalo Bulls (4-4, 2-2 MAC) defended home turf with a rousing defensive performance in a game pivotal to their staying alive in the MAC East race, as they took care of the Central Michigan Chippewas (5-4, 2-2 MAC) by a final score of 43-20.
It was a dominating performance for the Bulls all around, as they forced five turnovers from the CMU offense, including two interceptions and three turnovers. One of those turnovers resulted in a defensive touchdown, when Kadofi Wright nailed the door shut on a CMU comeback rally with a 40-yard interception return touchdown.
The Bulls also held on to the ball for 34:12 of game time, going 8-of-17 on third down and 1-of-2 on fourth down to keep the ball out of CMU’s hands. That was thanks in large part to a rushing attack which generated 197 yards on 51 attempts. (For comparison’s sake, CMU was 3-of-13 on third down and 2-of-5 on fourth down.)
Kyle Vantrease, who came into the game averaging 41.7 yards per game through the air, exploded in the first half, going 10-of-16 for 158 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, connecting with Antonio Nunn (five receptions, 77 yards, two touchdowns) on both scores. He wasn’t asked to throw very much after that, finishing 13-of-25 for 179 yards.
Jaret Patterson led all runnings backs with 149 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries, while also picking up two receptions for 59 yards, one of which set up an eventual touchdown drive for Kevin Marks (21 carries, 37 yards, one touchdown.)
The Buffalo defense was the star of the show, picking up four sacks and five tackles-for-loss to go with their five takeaways. Joey Marks led the way with 10 tackles (nine solo), one forced fumble, and an interception, while Wright had a pick-six. They limited the stellar CMU rushing attack to 73 total yards, forcing CMU into long downs and breaking up their offensive rhythms. Wright, Taylor Riggins and Evan Davis all recovered fumbles for the Bulls.
Even the Buffalo kicking game, which came in at 5-of-13 on field goal attempts on the season, was perfect kicking field goals today, as Alex McNulty went 3-of-3, while kicking 4-of-5 on extra points.
For Central Michigan, Quinten Dormady struggled throughout, but finished with decent numbers, going 25-of-37 for 273 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble on an attempted rush.
Jonathan Ward (14 carries for 64 yards, one touchdown) found it difficult to burst through one of the best rush defenses in the country, with Kobe Lewis (eight carries for 29 yards) also failing to find much luck. Ward contributed in the pass game as well (five receptions for 39 yards), but also had a fumble early in the game to give Buffalo a choice opportunity to score deep inside CMU territory.
JaCorey Sullivan had another 100-yard receiving day, leading all receivers with 114 yards on seven receptions and a touchdown. Kalil Pimpleton (seven receptions, 82 yards, one touchdown) also helped lead the receiving attack for CMU.
The two teammates celebrated former Muskegon and CMU teammate Andrew Ward in their own ways, after Ward suffered a career-ending injury earlier this week; Sullivan wore Ward’s number 43, while Pimpleton revealed an undershirt which read “Forever #43” on it.
The Chippewas did all they could do on defense, given the circumstances. As a unit, they didn’t pick up any sacks, but they did manage to get seven tackles-for-loss, seven pass break-ups and an interception (courtesy of Alonzo McCoy.) The interception, which was returned for a touchdown by Michael Oliver, was ultimately called down on the field and the resuting drive ended in an empty possession.
Troy Brown led the Chips with seven total tackles and two tackles-for-loss, with four Chippewas also collecting tackles for loss. Montrae Braswell (three), Brandon Brown and Darius Bracy (two) all had pass breakups.
CMU will go home to face the NIU Huskies for a noon game on Saturday, while Buffalo travels to Ypsilanti to take on the Eastern Michigan Eagles.