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Five Things Learned: Buffalo 38, Temple 22

Buffalo football is BACK, and perhaps the frontrunner in the MAC East.

Buffalo v Temple Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Forget what you did last week. What have you done for me lately?

Buffalo headed back to UB Stadium with a sour, unsatisfied feeling after a 35-17 loss to a winless Liberty team in its second year as an FBS program. The Bulls were heavy underdogs to an undefeated Temple squad, but all presuppositions were erased when the teams took the field Saturday. Buffalo crushed Temple. The 38-22 score doesn’t exactly do justice considering Buffalo led 38-10 in the fourth quarter.

Lance Leipold’s game-planning was impeccable

So, the Liberty game didn’t go well. Many coaches linger on struggles in previous outings, but Leipold didn’t let the same team beat him twice.

Defensively, the Bulls clobbered the Owls. Temple entered the second quarter with a 7-0 lead but the offense then stalled until the game was out of hand. Buffalo’s run defense looked very similar to the unit from the first half of the Penn State game. The Bulls limited the Owls to just 1.3 yards per carry on the ground. They excelled at pressuring Temple quarterback Anthony Russo, who forced ill-advised throws and finished with three interceptions. Buffalo looked like a team operating with an answer key to Temple’s offense, and certainly, the Bulls had answers to everything Rod Carey ran with the Owls offense.

Feeding Jaret Patterson makes for a successful offense

Buffalo didn’t really need to pass to win. Matt Myers threw an interception on his first possession, and Buffalo grounded the ball for the rest of the game. Myers wound up throwing just 15 passes, completing nine for 62 yards. He managed the game well and let the running backs shine.

Keeping the offense one-dimensional paid off. Jaret Patterson earned a career-high 27 carries and he capitalized on most of them. He constantly picked up 4, 5 yards, slowly moving Buffalo’s offense across the field. When the final buzzer sounded, he had 133 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score in the second quarter.

Patterson showed up against a tough Penn State run defense and he reappeared when pitted against a Temple team which stifled Maryland’s high-flying offense. He was a Maxwell Award watch list running back for a reason, and Buffalo can continue to run a serviceable offense by just feeding No. 26.

These teams are tough to rank

When ranking 130 teams, these two are programs that are difficult to place in a certain spot. Looking at the full body of work, Temple handed Maryland (which briefly sat at No. 21 in the AP Poll) a loss in Philadelphia in a defensive struggle. But the Owls were dominated by Buffalo, a team which suffered an 18-point loss to Liberty a week ago.

So here’s a circle of parity: Buffalo beat Temple. Temple beat Maryland. Maryland beat Syracuse. Syracuse beat Liberty. Liberty beat Buffalo.

More evidence is needed to determine where each of these teams sit in the college football spectrum, but nonetheless, this is an impressive, résumé-building win for the Bulls, which were in desperate need of one in a post-Tyree Jackson era. Temple won eight games and nearly appeared in a conference championship of the American last year and the Owls field consistently solid teams every season. For Buffalo to beat the Owls in consecutive years shows how far the program has come under Leipold.

Kyle Vantrease might hang on to the punting gig

In one of the more bizarre stories of the college football season, Buffalo is using its backup quarterback as a punter. Punter Evan Finegan was carted off the field in the Penn State game with a broken fibula and tibia, and he’ll miss the rest of the season. The Bulls inserted a makeshift punter in quarterback Kyle Vantrease — who actually started a game at quarterback for Buffalo in 2017 and was expected to compete for the starting job this year.

Vantrease struggled on special teams in the Liberty game, averaging 27.3 yards per punt on three attempts, failing to boot a ball more than 35 yards. The Bulls even brought in kicker Jackson Baltar to take over punting duties from Vantrease in the middle of the Temple game for competition, but the quarterback was re-inserted in the game for the final punt. Vantrease, a high school punter, finished first on the team with a 41.3 average and even launched a ball a career-high 51 yards. He’s improving with more practice at the position, and Buffalo may continue to call on Vantrease to punt for the rest of the season.

Buffalo is the MAC East favorite

For the second-straight year, the Ohio Bobcats were proclaimed as MAC favorites in the preseason. Ohio struggled out of the gate with a 3-3 record last season, and this year, the Bobcats have been more disappointing with a 1-3 start. The losses are to Pitt, Marshall, and Louisiana, with the latter of the three being a 20-point home shellacking to the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Meanwhile, Buffalo knocked off Temple 38-22 and it wasn’t even close. The Bulls are still the reigning MAC East champs and they’ve registered the highest quality win for the conference this season. They also entered Happy Valley and escaped the first half with a 3-point lead over the currently No. 12 Nittany Lions. Buffalo had one slight hiccup but the Bulls have proved in three of their four games that they remain a frontrunner in this wide-open conference. Their rushing attack is the strongest in the division, their offensive line is the premier unit in the conference, and the defense proved they can brutalize Temple at the line of scrimmage. No team in the MAC East has a better record than 2-2, so until further notice, this is Buffalo’s division for the taking.