As each week of the 2022 season progresses, the Buffalo Bulls just keep getting better and better. It was an alarming start to year two of the Maurice Linguist era as Buffalo dropped a contest to an FCS opponent and held status as one of six winless FBS teams after Week 3. But there’s a reason why the season doesn’t end after Week 3 because the Bulls already rewrote their 2022 story before the halfway point.
After initial success in MAC play with wins over Eastern Michigan and Miami (OH), Buffalo traveled to Bowling Green in hopes of starting 3-0 in the conference. The Bulls left no question mark in a road trip to Bowling Green, pummeling the Falcons in 38-7 fashion to win their fourth matchup in five tries against the Falcons.
Buffalo dropped a 56-44 shootout to Bowling Green last October, but the Bulls exacted revenge by establishing a dominant run game against a defense that entered Saturday ranked fourth-to-last in yards allowed per game. Mike Washington set his career-high with 71 yards two weeks ago against Eastern Michigan, but the redshirt freshman tailback more-than-doubled that amount in a 155-yard explosion, which included a 92-yard breakaway run in the late second quarter. His counterpart Ron Cook Jr. added 89 yards and both components of the running back tandem posted two touchdowns.
The other key factor which separated the MAC East squads by 31 points was the onslaught of Bowling Green fumbles. The Falcons lost the turnover battle 4-1 with three fumbles and one interception and Buffalo accumulated 17 free points thanks to the turnovers. Seven of those points were directly scored by the defense. In the late third quarter facing a 31-0 deficit, the Falcons were on the doorstep of their first points. Bowling Green handed it to Jamal Johnson near the goal line, but a player in a different jersey wound up in the end zone.
While Johnson continued driving his legs for extra yardage, inside linebacker James Patterson ripped the ball out of the running back’s hands and raced 97 yards the other way. It marked the first touchdown of the multi-time All-MAC linebacker’s esteemed college career. Marcus Fuqua also played a significant role in the turnover game with one fumble recovery and one interception against a struggling Bowling Green offense.
It was a rare interception for Bowling Green quarterback Matt McDonald, who entered Week 6 as one of three collegiate quarterbacks with 13+ touchdown passes and one or fewer picks on the season. Hoping to escape an early hole — which was 17-0 at the end of the first quarter and 31-0 at halftime — Scot Loeffler and his offensive staff relied on McDonald’s arm to crawl out of the deficit. McDonald completed just 21 of his 42 attempts with 11 passes broken up by a relentless Buffalo secondary.
The litany of incompletions combined with a lack of success in the run game and frequent penalties to produce the Falcons’ lowest scoring output of the season. Bowling Green finally notched its first points with 5:57 remaining in the third quarter when McDonald connected with running back Ta’ron Keith for an 11-yard catch-and-run. Up until that point, the Falcons struggled immensely in scoring territory. Not only did James Patterson’s rip-and-score stall their progress — they also lost a fumble at the 1-yard line in the second quarter and attempted a fake field goal which quickly backfired due to a botched lateral.
The battle in the trenches also favored the Bulls, which produced four sacks in addition to a powerful rushing attack. Bowling Green’s defense accrued four sacks per game prior to its matchup with Buffalo, but the Bulls’ line protected quarterback Cole Snyder well enough to only yield half of the Falcons’ average. Snyder didn’t drop back to pass much in a 12-for-19 showing, but the quarterback delivered key throws including a 33-yard delivery to Quian Williams on his first attempt of the game — which ultimately set the tone for Buffalo’s offense.
Now at 3-0 in league play, Buffalo is the lone remaining unbeaten in the MAC East. The Bulls already exceeded their entire MAC win total from 2021 and bowl eligibility becomes increasingly more likely with an improvement to .500. Buffalo takes a brief respite from the league next Saturday when it travels to UMass to face the former MAC member in Amherst, MA.
Meanwhile, Bowling Green missed its opportunity to jump to .500. The Falcons remain in search of their first bowl bid since 2015. After compiling their fourth loss of the season, the urgency increases as they remain at Doyt Perry Stadium to host Miami (OH) next Saturday.