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2020 Mid-American Conference Football Week 4 Game Recap: Buffalo Bulls vs. Kent State

Patterson re-wrote the record books with the second-best single-game rushing performance in college football history.

Paul Hokanson (University at Buffalo Athletics)

Historic.

There’s no other word to describe what Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson did in the Buffalo Bulls’ 70-41 win over Kent State (3-1) on Saturday afternoon, as the celebrated halfback ran for 409 yards and an FBS record-tying eight touchdowns on 36 carries to help Buffalo maintain their undefeated record.

“It feels good, just breaking tackles, hitting the hole with the offensive linemen. I put myself through a lot of pain to try to get results,” Patterson said. “With my mindset, I can’t really reflect because we have two games left and our ultimate goal is to get to Detroit.”

It was evident early on that Patterson was playing with an edge; the first play from scrimmage in the battle between MAC unbeatens was a 62-yard run by Patterson, who wore No. 41 on Saturday in honor of the late Solomon Jackson. One play later, he punched it in from three yards to put Buffalo on the board.

“Me and Jaret were talking all week about that specific look,” left tackle Kayode Awosika said about the first play from scrimmage. “They gave us what we call a flash look. The end comes inside, the tackle’s looping out, and me and the guard pass it off. I stopped and I told Jaret, ‘If we see this look, I look you in the eye, and as soon as you get the ball, take off because it’s gonna be open.’”

Patterson became the fourth player in FBS history to surpass 400 rushing yards in a single game, finishing his effort with the the second-highest rushing total ever, 18 yards shy of Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine’s 427-yard showing against Kansas in 2014.

Patterson also tied former Illinois running back Howard Griffith and former Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage for most touchdowns scored in an FBS game with eight and most total points scored with 48.

Of course, all major Buffalo and MAC rushing records now belong to the junior tailback. One week ago, Patterson broke his own MAC rushing record of 298 yards by posting 301 on Bowling Green. This week, Patterson not only broke that astronomical number — he shattered it by over 100 yards.

“It’s great what he’s done for our program,” head coach Lance Leipold said. “What makes him even special not just as an athlete, but as a person is the humbleness that he carries each and every week and the gratitude that he has to his teammates that help him get there.”

In the first quarter alone, Patterson rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns on eight carries, and the Bulls led Kent State, 21-10. By halftime, the All-MAC halfback attained 267 yards and five touchdowns, entering the break with a 35-24 advantage over the Golden Flashes.

“The conversations are we have to play up to his level as well,” Awosika said. “We know he’s gonna give 130 percent, we’re giving 140 percent to make sure the holes he’s getting are even bigger. We want to drive defenders out of the way completely, so if he gets 1-on-1 with the safety, he definitely has the space to make him miss.”

Just like last week at Bowling Green, Patterson kept his stamina at full capacity well into the second half. He scored three rushing touchdowns in the final two quarters, including a 58-yard run halfway through the fourth. Four of Patterson’s record eight touchdowns originated from more than 30 yards out, and he had six total runs of 30 yards or greater. He never ran out of steam until the final whistle blew, when Buffalo had 70 on the scoreboard.

“The great running backs get stronger as the game goes on,” Patterson said. “Anybody can start strong, but you have to finish strong. As guys get tired, I get stronger as the game goes on.”

The offensive line produced plenty of sizable gaps for Patterson and Co. to run through. Buffalo’s rushing game featured more than just Patterson’s record day — halfback Kevin Marks added 97 yards and two scores on 16 carries. Overall, the duo finished with 506 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

“I always tell Kevin, we play to inspire people. We play to inspire the team,” Patterson said. “I’m glad to have that guy. He’s definitely a home run hitter. When both of us are having days, it just shows the work we’ve put in and how hard we work to push each other and make each other better each and every day.”

While Patterson and Marks often credit the offensive line for their individual endeavors, even the offensive linemen are astounded by the abilities of Buffalo’s running backs.

“It’s honestly shocking,” Awosika said. “It amazes me how much (Patterson) turns it up as the game goes. When people are getting tired, he’s just getting more and more intense... He and Kevin, they’re great backs they make it easy for us. They’ll make someone miss and then take off. Or like, (Patterson) drug his ankle out of somebody who was wrapped around him and bust for a touchdown. It’s easy to block for backs like that.”

Last season, Buffalo squandered a 27-6 lead in the final 10 minutes to Kent State. Neither team had lost since the game transpired last November, but the Bulls’ offense ensured there would be a different result this time around.

“We took it personal based on how last year’s game ended,” Patterson said. “They’re putting points up and saying how they’re so good, but we’re pretty good too, so we took that personal.”

Kent State entered the game first in the FBS in points per game and played a magnificent game offensively, despite the 29-point loss. Quarterback Dustin Crum enjoyed his second consecutive 340-yard game, firing two touchdowns in a remarkable outing. Crum also led the team in rushing with 76 yards and scored a 20-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

The Golden Flashes were within striking distance until the middle of the third quarter. Buffalo suddenly pushed Kent State out of the picture by forcing a punt and intercepting Crum on back-to-back possessions. The Bulls offense couldn’t be stopped and they scored a touchdown on every possession of the second half, preventing Kent State from mounting another comeback.

Kent State suffered its first loss since Nov. 5, 2019, spoiling a 7-game win streak — the program’s longest since 2012. Meanwhile, Buffalo still has not lost since Nov. 14, 2019. The Bulls are not only on the radar as a juggernaut in their conference, but with Patterson’s headline-drawing performance, Buffalo enters national discussion for Top 25 consideration.

Buffalo’s victory over Kent State makes the Bulls the lone undefeated team in the MAC East, and now the Bulls are owners of the conference’s longest win streak at seven games. They join Western Michigan in the MAC West as the lone undefeateds in the conference.

“This is a statement game, not just in the MAC, but in the whole country — that the Buffalo Bulls can play football,” Patterson said. “It’s good to start bringing the buzz around our program.”

Buffalo looks to continue their positive momentum with their upcoming game against the Ohio Bobcats (2-1) at Peden Stadium early Saturday afternoon, while Kent State will lick their wounds and try to keep pace with a game against the Miami RedHawks (2-1) in Oxford later Saturday afternoon. Both games will be on CBS Sports Network.