In terms of wins and national exposure, 2018 marked the mountaintop of the Buffalo Bulls’ program. Buffalo — while attaining its first 10-win season as an FBS member — annihilated its first-ever Big Ten program, gathered a collection of AP votes, landed a spot in the MAC Championship Game, and went bowling for the first time since 2013.
Buffalo’s main contributors composed of an interesting blend of new faces and upperclassmen. But one of the new faces took the conference by storm, and now he’s flying on the national radar as one of 80 members on the Maxwell Award Watch List, handed to the best all-around players in college football.
Jaret Patterson, a 5’9” sophomore running back from Glenn Dale, MD, was just another freshman on a crowded Buffalo depth chart entering the season. In a blowout win over Delaware State of the FCS, Patterson earned his shot in the second half and capitalized. A 16-yard touchdown run in the third quarter would set the precedent for the rest of the season for the true freshman back.
Three games later, Patterson provided the horsepower to drive Buffalo’s offense leaps and bounds past Rutgers in Piscataway. The Bulls had never taken down an opponent from the Big Ten despite clashing with the conference in the early slate of many recent seasons. Patterson ensured the road win would come in the form of domination, posting 104 rushing yards on 14 carries and punching in two touchdowns.
The 104-yard outing was his first of three games over the century mark in a breakout true freshman season. Patterson would post another 121 and a touchdown against Central Michigan. But his strongest performance of the season came in the form of 187 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 48-14 November win over Kent State. Patterson opened the game with a season-long 64-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage, juking a defender before turning on the jets to reach the end zone. It was his first of two scores in a game where he would average over 10 yards per carry on 18 attempts.
30 seconds into the game, Jaret Patterson takes it 64 yards to the house! Buffalo up 7-0 on Kent St pic.twitter.com/24VfLVtkyh— '04 Rabih Abdullah (@ftbeard_17) November 7, 2018
Overall, Patterson finished the season eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark with 1,013 rushing yards (ranked 60th in FBS) on 183 attempts — 5.5 yards per carry. His 14 rushing touchdowns (20th in FBS) tied Toledo’s Bryant Koback for the most among running backs in the MAC. Rewarded for his progress, Patterson was named the MAC Freshman of the Year and selected to the All-MAC Second Team.
Patterson enters 2019 as a focal point of Buffalo’s revamped offense. Without quarterback Tyree Jackson or the team’s five leading receivers from 2018, Patterson enters the new year as one of the more seasoned members of Lance Leipold’s offense. He will likely retain his role as the feature back, while fellow sophomore Kevin Marks (180 attempts, 845 yards in 2018) will receive plenty of action at the position as well. Patterson will be gifted with a sturdy offensive line, headlined by left tackle Evin Ksiezarczyk, who created plenty of space for Patterson as a freshman.
Jaret isn’t the only star Patterson on the team. His twin brother, James Patterson, headlined the defense last season with 77 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and four forced fumbles from the outside linebacker position. That way, whether Buffalo is on offense or defense, a Patterson twin will be one of the best players on the field.
Patterson’s cutting ability might be his greatest asset as a runner. He possesses great speed but his agile cuts and jukes separate him from other starting running backs in the conference and at the FBS level. His shiftiness and rapid reaction time make him a rather difficult target for oncoming defenders.
Expect to see him become more of a staple in the passing game too on quick screens. Last season, Patterson only caught seven passes for 62 yards but three of those catches for 42 yards occurred in the final two games of the season. Buffalo targeted the deep ball frequently with Tyree Jackson’s juggernaut of an arm but with a new quarterback coming into the system, Buffalo may frequent halfback screens in the offense.
We’ve caught a glimpse of what the Maxwell Award watch list member can do as a runner, so heading into 2019 with experience, Patterson’s skill set could possibly expand from a phenomenal starting point.