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Justin Marshall’s late TD grab slides Buffalo past Miami (OH), 24-20

Buffalo takes a risk in the final minute and it pays off in the form of a winning touchdown.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Holy Cross at Buffalo Photo by Joshua Bessex/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Buffalo head coach Maurice Linguist elected to gamble in the final minute. Moments after kicker Alex McNulty drained a game-tying 39-yard field goal with 46 seconds remaining, yellow laundry decorated the field. Miami (OH) was flagged for an offsides on penalty on the 4th and 4 field goal attempt.

McNulty’s heroics were all for naught as Linguist decided to scrap the points off the board in effort to go for the knockout blow and win the game. Two snaps later, Buffalo faced a 3rd and 8 down 20-17 to the RedHawks. Failure to gain eight yards would require McNulty to deliver again. Instead, the offense proved why Linguist rolled the dice. Quarterback Cole Snyder sent a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Justin Marshall in the end zone, who gained separation courtesy of a crisp route. Marshall’s touchdown with 31 seconds remaining pushed Buffalo (2-3, 2-0 MAC) past Miami (2-3, 0-1 MAC), 24-20, and ensured the Bulls maintain a perfect record in MAC play.

Buffalo concluded Week 3 as one of six remaining FBS teams without a win, but the Bulls flipped the script as soon as MAC play commenced. Buffalo routed Eastern Michigan in 50-31 fashion last week before notching its second consecutive win against a Miami squad picked to win the MAC East at the conference’s preseason media day.

The Bulls launched the scoring for the afternoon when running back Mike Washington crossed the goal line on their opening drive. Despite the team’s first two rushing touchdowns stemming from the ground, running the ball through Miami’s 12th ranked run defense was an issue. No Buffalo ball carrier eclipsed Ron Cook Jr.’s 46 rushing yards and the team averaged 2.6 yards per attempt — forcing Snyder’s arm to become the focal point of the offense.

Snyder delivered 13 of his 19 completions to the two components of his star receiving tandem. Marshall snagged six receptions for 62 yards including the game-winning touchdown while Quian Williams hauled in a team-high seven catches for 77 yards.

Still, Buffalo’s offense didn’t exactly replicate its fireworks from the 50-point showing in Week 4, but the Bulls gained advantages in other ways. Boston College transfer strong safety Jahmin Muse returned an interception 51 yards to set Snyder up with a 1-yard touchdown on a zone read in the second quarter. Also, Miami consistently watched its progress get hampered on both ends by an onslaught of penalties, drawing 11 flags for 96 yards.

Outside of those miscues, Miami moved the ball to its greatest degree since the injury to quarterback Brett Gabbert. Aveon Smith, making his fourth start in relief of Gabbert, demonstrated his mobility to a previously unforeseen level. The quarterback bolted 12 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns, showing off his speed on a 73-yard QB draw in the first quarter and a tying 3-yard touchdown run in the third. After Smith’s second rushing touchdown, the RedHawks recovered a Buffalo fumble in position to churn out more points. But the Bulls’ goal line defense stood strong and forced a 22-yard field goal from Graham Nicholson — rewriting the score to 20-17 instead of 24-17.

Miami continued its efforts to set up the passing game under Smith and the quarterback tied his career-high in completions with 14, attained 119 yards through the air — 90 of which went to the team’s leading receiver Mac Hippenhammer. Smith only took one sack, but Buffalo otherwise had its footprint all over the RedHawks’ backfield. Led by linebacker Shaun Dolac and his three tackles for loss, the Bulls recorded 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage in a stellar defensive showing.

Although Buffalo’s defense proved to be stingy in allowing touchdowns, the RedHawks’ 20 points were their most against FBS competition in four tries this season. Chuck Martin’s squad will try to ignite the offense to an even further degree next Saturday when they square off against Kent State in a matchup which determined the fate of the MAC East last November.

Meanwhile, Buffalo has a stranglehold on the MAC East with an early 2-0 head start. With consecutive wins under its belt for the second time in the Linguist era, the Bulls hope to extend their streak to three when they pay a trip to Bowling Green on Oct. 8.