Wednesday night was officially the Jaret Patterson show in Buffalo.
With bowl eligibility on the line, Patterson rallied Buffalo to its sixth win of the year, bursting for a career-high 192 rushing yards and five total touchdowns in a 49-30 victory over Toledo. The sophomore halfback also added 35 receiving yards to push him over 200 yards from scrimmage on the night. Patterson’s five touchdowns (4 rushing, 1 receiving) tied the MAC record for most in a game, all-time, and he was one yard short of breaking the record with under four minutes to go. With a combination of stamina, power, and evasiveness, Patterson was able to clinch Buffalo’s sixth win and the team’s fourth victory in five games.
The halfback from Glenn Dale, MD, scored five consecutive touchdowns for Buffalo, starting with a 24-yard catch-and-run off a halfback screen. As a viable goal line threat, Patterson’s number was frequently called in short yardage situations. He plunged his way to rushing touchdowns of 1, 1, 2, and 7 yards on his 32 carries out of the backfield.
While Patterson was producing historic numbers, fellow sophomore running back Kevin Marks also presented a danger for the Toledo defense. Marks surpassed the 900-yard rushing mark on the season by tallying 118 Wednesday night and adding his 20th career rushing touchdown. Many of Buffalo’s frequent rushing play-calls were directed toward the left side of the field, where left tackle Evin Ksiezarczyk provided a litany of powerful blocks to pave the way.
Patterson scored four rushing touchdowns, Marks contributed one, and even quarterback Kyle Vantrease got in on the action. In a closing effort to a dominant rushing performance (331 yards, 6.2 per attempt), Vantrease scrambled for a naked bootleg touchdown in the waning minutes of the contest. The quarterback also enjoyed a solid day in the pocket, completing 65% of his passes for 172 yards and a touchdown.
Toledo managed to keep the game close in the first half, overcoming an early 14-0 deficit to tie it at 14 apiece, and later cutting the deficit to 28-23 in the early third quarter. However, the Rockets’ high-octane offense was not sustainable following the departure of quarterback Eli Peters. Peters, the second-string quarterback to injured starter Mitchell Guadagni, left the game with an undisclosed injury at halftime after throwing for 163 yards. Carter Bradley checked in for Peters and completed 6/17 passes for 85 yards in the second half. The Rockets scored just one touchdown in the final 30 minutes of action, a 5-yard rushing touchdown by Ronnie Jones with 18 seconds remaining.
Rockets running back Bryant Koback missed the majority of Toledo’s previous game with a leg injury. Koback returned to the lineup and picked up from where he left off. Ranked 11th in the FBS in rushing yards entering Wednesday night, Koback added another 99 and a touchdown to an impressive résumé, averaging nearly six yards per touch.
Buffalo established a dominant pass rush, while Toledo continued to struggle breaking through the Bulls’ offensive line. Lance Leipold’s team finished the night with three sacks, while Toledo managed to bring down Vantrease zero times. Buffalo’s star-studded offensive line has only allowed one sack since the start of October, when Vantrease took over as the starter.
After coming up short at UB Stadium, Toledo drops to 6-5 and is officially eliminated from the MAC West race. Toledo dropping out of the picture leaves the division between Western Michigan and Central Michigan. The Rockets are still bowl eligible, but they can enter bowl selection day with increased security with a win at Central Michigan on Black Friday.
Buffalo is bowl eligible for the third-straight year for the first time in program history. The Bulls were not invited to the postseason in 2017, but if selected this year, Buffalo can participate in consecutive bowl games — a feat which has never been accomplished before in school history.