Last November, Jaret Patterson made history against Bowling Green. The Buffalo running back embarked on a rushing barrage against the Falcons, setting a new program rushing record with 298 yards.
Twelve months later in a rematch against the familiar opponent, Patterson did it again. The junior halfback shattered his lofty mark from last season by exploding for a career-high 301 rushing yards complemented with four touchdowns in Buffalo’s (3-0, 3-0 MAC) 42-17 victory over Bowling Green (0-3, 0-3 MAC).
“These records are not broken alone,” Patterson said. “These are helped by teammates, offensive line, coaches trusting me. It really plays hand in hand, so I know I just have to keep working because the ultimate goal for me is to win a MAC championship.”
In his past two meetings with Bowling Green, Patterson has a combined 599 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 57 carries — an average carry of 10.5 yards. Even in a shortened 6-game regular season, Patterson is on pace for the third 1,000-yard season of his Buffalo career, currently racking up 511 at the halfway point. Besides setting the school record in single-game rushing yards, Patterson also climbed in the record books by passing former Buffalo great James Starks for second in all-time rushing yards — just three games into his junior season.
“It’s just him doing what he does,” head coach Lance Leipold said. “It takes a team to do it. Even when you have special players like Jaret Patterson, everybody’s a part of record-setting performances and we try to focus on as many team things as we can, but we’ll acknowledge these when they come about.”
Patterson didn’t appear to be destined to approach his career-high of 298 after one half of action, accumulating 96 yards at the break. He managed two touchdowns in the first half to bolster the Bulls to a 21-3 halftime lead, but Patterson saved his best work for the finishing act.
He broke free for a 15-yard touchdown to expand the lead in the third quarter. Later in the period, Patterson sprinted down the left sideline for a 67-yard pickup. In his 31st carry on Buffalo’s final play from scrimmage, Patterson didn’t feel fatigue. Instead, he fought through contact and found an open lane for a 57-yard touchdown, a score which shattered his own program rushing record.
“As a running back, in my game, I feel like I get stronger as the game goes on,” Patterson said. “You can’t just play two quarters because you know it could be a quick turnaround like we saw last year with Kent State. It’s finishing, that’s what we harp on when we come out from halftime. It’s 0-0 and that’s the mentality we have when we put teams away.”
The running game didn’t solely belong to the record-setting halfback. Buffalo also incorporated halfback Kevin Marks into the mix, and he was a vital reason for the Bulls’ early success. Coming off a 100-yard performance against Miami (OH), Marks dashed for 90 yards on 15 carries. He bulldozed his way into the end zone in the first half for Buffalo’s second touchdown of the evening. With two running backs completely taking over, the offense felt reminiscent to the Bulls’ 2019 ground-heavy scheme.
“We can’t be stopped and we won’t be stopped,” Marks said regarding the running backs’ mentality against Bowling Green. “I just tell (Patterson), just run hard, run physical, and everything else will fall into place. When we got that mentality, you see what happens — it’s lethal.”
The tandem of Patterson and Marks was one of two 1,000-yard running back duos in the FBS in 2019. With 391 combined yards posted on Bowling Green’s defense, the two continue to complement each other well in the run game, allowing dominant performances like Tuesday night to become commonplace.
“You can see us trying to play them on the field at the same time together when we can,” Leipold said. “The other one knows that he’s gonna have to block for the other guy or they’re both gonna be involved in pass protection. They have really embraced the role of being complete running backs. They’re truly excited for each other’s success.”
Every ball carrier was able to succeed with the gaping holes produced by the Buffalo offensive line, and Buffalo rushed for seven collective touchdowns. The run blocking was phenomenal and the the Bulls finished their seventh consecutive game without yielding a single sack.
“The offensive line just dominated up front. It starts up front and we were gonna take them to pound town, as we like to say,” Patterson said. “That group really doesn’t get the most credit, but I feel we have the best offensive line in the country.”
Last week, Buffalo proved its versatility with quarterback Kyle Vantrease setting a career-high 353 passing yards and taking deep shots. This week, Vantrease was seldom utilized as a passer. He completed seven passes on 12 attempts, connecting with wide receiver Antonio Nunn six times. Vantrease joined in on the rushing attack, contributing his own 6-yard touchdown on a zone read in the third quarter. He was called to play a different style of football this week by handing it off 46 times, but the quarterback adapted with no issue.
“The wind conditions, the down and distance, it just kind of played out that way tonight,” Leipold said about cutting down the passing attempts. “Down the stretch, we’re gonna have to work to continue to be more balanced. Kyle handles it well. He’s so even-keeled. He wants us to play well, and he got himself a rushing touchdown so that may soften not as many attempts, but he handles it and I think all the guys do.”
Even on a shorthanded defense plagued by injuries, Buffalo managed to fend for itself. Jaret Patterson’s twin brother James Patterson also enjoyed a career day by picking up a personal-best 13 tackles. Defensive end Malcolm Koonce, the MAC sack leader from a season ago, added to the effort with a pair of sacks. The secondary allowed Buffalo to win the turnover battle, courtesy of an interception in the end zone by free safety Marcus Fuqua.
Despite a 25-point loss, Bowling Green enjoyed its best showing in over a year. The Falcons lost their sixth consecutive game but snapped a five game streak of losing by 35 or more points.
For the first time this season, Bowling Green completed over 30 percent of its passes, and quarterback Matt McDonald moved the ball well with a season-high 219 passing yards while connecting on 17/27 attempts. The rushing game started out on fire with Andrew Clair recording 85 yards in his first game back from a shoulder injury. Freshman Terion Stewart shined in the fourth quarter with 42 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns to keep Bowling Green within a respectable margin.
The Falcons offense moved, but they struggled to finish drives. After an early field goal, Bowling Green came up empty-handed on its next three possessions that landed inside the Buffalo 30-yard line. Still, the level Bowling Green played at against the MAC frontrunner superseded the Falcons’ earlier showings this season.
Bowling Green hopes to apply its successes from Tuesday night into its road game at Ohio on Saturday, Nov. 28.
Meanwhile, Buffalo has a 10-day break to prepare for a revenge game. The unscathed Bulls take a 6-game win streak into a battle with undefeated Kent State, winners of 7-straight, in what’s shaping up to be the most anticipated MAC matchup this season. Buffalo remembers the feeling of squandering a 21-point fourth quarter lead last year and must put that aside in order to compete for a MAC championship.
“The coaches always challenge us: When we get success, how will we handle ourselves?” Patterson said. “This team is definitely responding well and we just have to keep doing it.”