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2021 Mid-American Conference Football Week 9 Game Recap: Bowling Green 56, Buffalo 44

BGSU wins their first league game since 2019 in chaotic fashion— and without their head coach after his ejection, the first in NCAA history.

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The Bowling Green Falcons (3-6, 1-4 MAC) were on a whole different plane of aggression from the word “go” against the Buffalo Bulls (4-5, 2-3 MAC), stunning the homestanding Bulls early, and claiming a 56-44 victory on the road at UB Alumni Stadium on Saturday afternoon, sending reverberations around the MAC East divisional race.

The victory was the first league win for the Falcons in two years, with their last league win being a 35-6 result against Akron at home on Nov. 2, 2019. It was also their biggest points night since defeating Ball State 48-10 on Nov. 24, 2015 to clinch a trip to Detroit. The 56-point effort was one point short of their entire scoring offensive production in the 2020 season.

From the first drive of the game, anyone in the audience could tell you the game was simply going to be different than your usual football contest.

BGSU QB Matt McDonald found Christian Sims on a tight end screen on third-and-long deep in their own end of the field for an 81-yard video game-esque touchdown, truck-sticking a potential defender at the BGSU 25-yard line en route to get BGSU up 7-0 just over a minute and a half into the game.

After both teams exchanged two punts apiece, the Falcons found themselves at the Buffalo 17-yard line on fourth-and-7 and would set up for a Nate Needham field goal— or so it seemed, as punter/holder Matt Naranjo would scoop up the snap and shed the tackler to reach the sticks for an eight-yard gain to give BGSU a new set of downs at the Buffalo 9-yard line. Matt McDonald ran for eight yards on the first play to get BGSU at the Buffalo one-yard line, and Jaylen Embry would do the rest on a jet sweep rush to put the Falcons up 14-0 with 3:31 remaining to cap off the zany 11-play, 87-yard drive.

Buffalo responded with a pace-settling drive, taking 6:46 of game time to drive down the field for a 14-play, 57-yard drive which would end in a Alex McNulty 50-yard field goal. Things were looking good for Buffalo, as they would force a three-and-out on the ensuing BGSU drive and retain the ball back, seemingly in position to get within one score again, but Buffalo QB Kyle Vantrease threw an interception on third-and-seven at their own 24 in the direction of Jordan Anderson to gift the Falcons crucial field position.

The Falcons were more than happy to cash it in three plays later, with Matt McDonald once again finding Christian Sims, this time in the endzone on a six-yard strike on a play-action boot play to put the Falcons up 21-3 with 7:12 left in the first half.

Buffalo’s offense regained their composure on the next drive, using their run game (and two critical defensive penalties) to drive the ball down the field on a 10-play, 75-yard drive lasting 4:20 of game time, capping off with a 13-yard rushing touchdown by Mike Washington Jr., the first of his career, to put the gap at 21-10 BGSU with 2:52 to go before the half.

Defensively, however, the Bulls were caught napping on the next BGSU possession, as Matt McDonald found big play threat Tyrone Broden down the left sideline for a 66-yard touchdown strike to once again push their lead to three scores at 28-10 BGSU.

Buffalo would go three-and-out on the ensuing drive, as would Bowling Green, though their attempt to pin the Bulls backwards went awry, as Matt Naranjo’s punt was blocked in the air, forcing it to drop at their own 34-yard line for a net 10-yard punt.

The blocked punt gave Buffalo another shot at points before the end of the half, with Alex McNulty ultimately missing from 52 yards out, keeping the score at 28-10 BGSU at halftime.

That’s when things started to take a turn for the weird.

Buffalo inherited the ball to start the half with Matt Myers under center taking over for Kyle vantrease, who was injured on a sack two drives prior. The Bulls would rally and together their best drive of the afternoon, a 16-play, 72-yard drive lasting over just over half of the third quarter. Dylan McDuffie ultimately would knock it in for a touchdown, but it cannot go unnoted that the drive was aided in part by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on BGSU head coach Scot Loeffler which granted Buffalo the ball at the BGSU 7.

After the touchdown and ensuing point-after attempt, Loeffler once again took objection to the officiating, and was seen berating officials through the media break and even as BGSU was setting up to recieve the kickoff. Ultimately, the officials threw the flag, and called Loeffler for his second unsportsmanlike conduct of the day, resulting in an automatic ejection.

The ejection was the first such call since the NCAA adjusted their unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to include head coaches in 2016, and it left BGSU in a compromised situation, as Loeffler is also the team’s offensive playcaller.

The results of Loeffler’s ejection were immediate, as BGSU went three-and-out on their first possession of the second half, and Buffalo would bridge the gap with Matt Myers sneaking in on a three-yard touchdown run— aided in part by five BGSU penalties in six plays, including a roughing the passer on a third-and-11 stop, two defensive pass interference calls and an after-the-play unsportsmanlike conduct call.

The two-point conversion to make it a field goal game failed, and BGSU would hold on to a five-point gap of 28-23 with 3:09 remaining in the third quarter.

BGSU looked to be on the road to scoring once again thanks to a 35-yard run by Terion Stewart, but it was ultimately called back due to holding, and the drive would end with a 27-yard punt by Matt Naranjo on fourth-and-20 to give Buffalo the ball at in favorable field position at their 33-yard line.

Buffalo took a nine-yard loss on a sack by Anthony Hawkins on second-and-eight, and suddenly, were forced in a position to throw the ball on third-and-17. Myers’ pass would find itself in the hands of a jumping Devin Taylor, who would return the ball 36 yards to the Buffalo 30.

Tyrone Broden once again hit paydirt, this time from 30 yards out, to increase BGSU’s lead back to 35-23 with just under 14 minutes remaining.

It looked like Buffalo had once again committed a fatal error on first-and-10 from inside their own territory, with Matt Myers throwing directly at BGSU DB Jordan Anderson for a second time, but the play was declared dead on a roughing the passer call, giving Buffalo a second chance. They would take the ball into the endzone seven plays later on a 13-yard Dylan McDuffie touchdown to (again) bridge the gap to a five-point deficit of 35-30 BGSU.

BGSU would score on their second-straight one-play possession just seconds later, as Terion Stewart evaded the initial tackles by Buffalo’s defense and found green grass for a 77-yard touchdown run to put the score at 42-30 BGSU.

In what was starting to become a pattern, Buffalo took the ensuing drive 77 yards on 10 plays in just over three minutes to score a rushing touchdown, this time on another Matt Myers QB scramble play from 10 yards out to put the score at 42-35 BGSU with 6:54 remaining.

BGSU blinked on the next possession, going three-and-out, with Buffalo possessing the ball—and a chance for the lead— with 4:47 remaining at their own 25. However, a second-down penalty call on a four-yard gain forced a replay of down from second-and-17, changing the tenor of the drive.

Buffalo would reach the original line of scrimmage on the replay on a Matt Myers run, but Myers was swallowed up on third-and-10 by a ferocious BGSU pass rush, forcing a fourth-and-16 from the Buffalo 13. Head coach Maurice Linguist opted to go for it, as they had converted on fourth-and-long earlier in the game, but this time around, the pass fell incomplete down the left sideline in the direction of Quian Williams, giving the Falcons the ball deep in the redzone.

BGSU scored on the first play of the drive on a 13-yard Terion Stewart run for what seemed to be their third one-play scoring drive, but a holding penalty brought the ball back to the Buffalo 23-yard line. it didn’t matter, as Stewart simply took the ball for a 24-yard score instead, giving the Falcons a nearly unassailable 49-37 lead with 2:12 remaining.

With no direction to go but forward, Matt Myers, in a relief role, delivered in a big way, finding Dominic Johnson for a 57-yard strike on the right sideline to get to the BGSU 33-yard line, then finding Quian Williams for a 36-yard reception on the left sideline after taking a sack to set up what would become a four-yard touchdown toss to a wide-open Dominic Johnson in the endzone, putting the score at 49-44 BGSU with :57 remaining.

Buffalo’s onside kick was caught by BGSU’s Austin Osborne, and all seemed resolved, as BGSU could run the ball—and the clock— to end the game. Instead, Matt McDonald faked the kneel-down play, fooling the defense and veering left to score a 47-yard rushing touchdown and force Buffalo to throw for their lives, with the upset-minded Falcons up 56-44.

Matt Myers went to work, completing his first three passes for 30 yards, 17 yards and 14 yards respectively before spiking at the BGSU 11-yard line. Myers would attempt two endzone throws in the corner towards Dominic Johnson, but neither would come clean, and the game clock reached triple zeroes with BGSU notching a stunning road victory.

It wasn’t the cleanest win for BGSU, who had a season-worst performance for NCAA teams in penalty yards gained, with 15 penalty calls for 177 yards. BGSU also allowed 499 yards on 99 plays and over 38 minutes of game clock to the Buffalo offense, with UB converting 2-of-3 fourth-down attempts and 6-of-7 in redzone visits.

But a win is a win, and BGSU will go home happy knowing they outplayed a solid Buffalo team, even despite the unique adversity they faced in the second half of the game, and an up-and-down performance throughout.

Matt McDonald finished the afternoon 13-of-19 for 263 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, and also rushed for 39 yards on five carries, scoring once. Terion Stewart led all rushers with 170 yards on 11 carries for two touchdowns, while Christian Sims (103 yards on five receptions) and Tyron Broden (110 yards on four receptions) paced the BGSU offensive effort.

Brock Horne led the Falcons defense with 15 tackles on a bust day at the office, with Darren Anders (12 tackles, one tackle-for-loss), Anthony Hawkins (10 tackles, one tackle-for-loss, one sack) and Demetrius Hardamon (10 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss, half-sack) all collecting douhle-digit tackles. The BGSU defense collected 11 tackles-for-loss and six sacks on the day, with Karl Brooks (six tackles, two tackles-for-loss) leading the way. Devin Taylor led all defensive backs with three pass breakups and an interception, while Jordan Anderson notched the other interception to go along with four tackles.

Nate Needham had a busy day on point-after attempts, going a perfect 8-of-8 for BGSU.

Matt Myers led a valiant effort in relief for the Bulls, finishing 12-of-24 for 239 yards, one touchdown and one interception through the air, while also collecting two touchdowns on the ground on 34 yards gained (3 net due to sacks.) Kyle Vantrease was 5-of-10 for 38 yards and an interception prior to sustaining an injury.

Dylan McDuffie once again led the Bulls rushing effort, with 34 carries for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Washington Jr. scored on his lone 14-yard attempt, while Ron Cook Jr. had 12 rushes for 36 yards and a 21-yard reception to convert on a clutch down.

Dominic Johnson led Buffalo in yards with four receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown, while Quian Williams led the team in receptions (5) for 87 yards. Jamari Gassett continues his ascent up the depth chart with two receptions for 39 yards, while TE Tyler Stephens collected four receptions for 36 yards.

James Patterson paced the Bulls’ defense, with seven tackles, two tackles-for-loss and 1.5 sacks. Ja’Marcus Ingram (six tackles) and CJ Bazile (five tackles, 1.5 tackle-for-loss) were also atop the chart. Buffalo collected eight tackles-for-loss and three sacks as a unit. Marcus Fuqua, Kadofi Wright and George Wolo all notched pass break-ups.

Alex McNulty finished 1-of-2 on field goals, hitting from 50 yards, and missing from 52 yards, while also converting all five of his point-after attempts.

BGSU will face the Toledo Rockets next on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at Doyt Perry Stadium, while Buffalo goes on the road to face the Miami RedHawks on Wednesday, Nov. 10 at Yager Stadium.