With high winds and warm weather sweeping through the island, bowl season kicked off in the Bahamas on Friday afternoon. Buffalo (8-5) and Charlotte (7-6) both fought for their first bowl win in program history, but the matchup finished with a lopsided 31-9 result in favor of the Bulls.
Buffalo never trailed once in the matchup, coasting to an easy victory by out-rushing, out-blitzing, and outplaying the 49ers in nearly every facet. Here are five takeaways from the 2019 Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl:
This bowl game played out very similar to the 2017 Bahamas Bowl. That year, Ohio erased UAB, 41-6, by rushing the ball in a dominant fashion over an inexperienced C-USA team in Nassau. The 2017 Bahamas Bowl was UAB’s first bowl game since the program shut down and revived in the mid-2010s.
Just like Ohio, the 2019 Buffalo team rostered many key contributors from the previous bowl season, which ended in a loss to Troy in the Dollar General Bowl. But like Ohio, that experience carried over to Thomas Robinson Stadium on the island, especially against a Charlotte team which had never sniffed bowl season before. The Bulls caught fire from the start and entered halftime with a 17-0 lead over the 49ers. They looked poised throughout the contest, and that level of confidence showed up on the scoreboard. Charlotte’s postseason inexperience certainly didn’t help Friday afternoon, but the lessons learned from the Bahamas Bowl could win the team a postseason game down the road.
Jaret Patterson’s finish to 2019 was historic
Buffalo finished the season 6-1 and a huge reason behind the near-perfect finish was the emergence of Jaret Patterson. Now, Patterson had always been a force on the Buffalo offense, surpassing 1,000 yards as a freshman and propelling the Bulls offense through the first half of the year. But the numbers Patterson posted in his final six games were nothing short of absurdity.
After setting a Bahamas Bowl record with 173 rushing yards, Patterson claimed his sixth-consecutive game of attaining over 140 yards. He continued to get better and better as the season progressed and contributed greatly to the scoring effort with 13 total touchdowns in Buffalo’s final three games. The Bahamas Bowl Offensive MVP also ranks first in the FBS in broken tackles at the moment, eclipsing Clemson running back Travis Etienne during the game. Patterson finished a historic season breaking Branden Oliver’s single-season rushing record by attaining 1,799 yards and also set a program best with 19 rushing touchdowns. It was a historic season for the sophomore, one which deserves tons of national recognition.
Buffalo’s o-line will beat the best pass rush
Out of all the bowl games, the Bahamas Bowl featured one of the most intriguing matchups in the trenches. Buffalo’s offensive line only yielded eight sacks and one since the start of October. Meanwhile, Charlotte averaged three sacks per game and featured the nation’s second-ranked leader in the category, defensive end Alex Highsmith.
Buffalo only passed 17 times, and for the fourth-straight game, zero sacks were recorded on the star-studded offensive line. Still, the line paved generous pathways for Patterson in the running game, allowing the halfback to consistently bolt for double-digit carries on the Charlotte defense despite simple play-calling. Buffalo’s offensive tackles, Evin Ksiezarczyk and Kayode Awosika, completed the tall task of limiting Highsmith who finished without a single tackle for loss. No matter how talented an opposing pass rush seems, Buffalo’s offensive line has no issue shutting it down and dominating at the line of scrimmage.
Buffalo’s front seven is a game changer
After Lance Leipold was showered with his Gatorade bath, the referees decided to add three seconds on the game clock because the game had actually not yet concluded. Charlotte ran one last play, presumably a desperation Hail Mary attempt. However, the play was blown up by Ledarius Mack, who ran like a man possessed into the 49ers’ backfield and brought down quarterback Chris Reynolds with an exclamation point.
That was a fitting end to a game that Buffalo’s front seven dominated at the line of scrimmage. The defense recorded five sacks, including a pair from defensive end Malcolm Koonce, who brought the pressure all afternoon. Buffalo limited Charlotte’s star running back Benny LeMay to 45 yards on 13 carries, and the 49ers never established the run game they attacked opponents with all season long. The Bulls — one of six teams to allow under 100 rushing yards per game — also had to account for a mobile quarterback in Chris Reynolds, yet they still held Charlotte to 80 rushing yards.
With Patterson, the offensive line, and the front seven performing at this high of a level throughout the second half of the season, it’s hard not to wonder how high Buffalo would shoot up in the rankings if the season extended several more weeks.
Buffalo makes history
The 2019 bowl season began with 11 teams still searching for their first bowl win in program history. Buffalo checked that box off the list after the resounding 31-9 win in the Bahamas. The Bulls couldn’t quite complete the job in 2008, 2013, or 2018, but on the second leg of back-to-back bowl appearances, history was made.
Buffalo now possesses hardware for its trophy case, a new greatest win in program history, and a general upward trend as a program. The Bulls could not have requested a better finish to the season after the uphill battle that was a 2-4 start, but they persevered and entered a rhythm to finish a storybook season. This team will be remembered as the one who finally finished the job in the postseason, and after the domination we witnessed in the Bahamas, it sure was a deserving group.