The Buffalo Bulls won the 2022 Camelia Bowl 23-21 over the Georgia Southern Eagles on Tuesday afternoon in Montgomery, Alabama.
Georgia Southern QB Kyle Vantrease, formerly a starter for Buffalo, had a great day throwing the ball for the Eagles, but a late interception gave the Bulls the field position they needed for a field goal to put the lead out of reach.
The contrasting styles were true to form in the afternoon sun of Alabama;s capital city, as the air raid of Georgia Southern was on full display and the Bulls featured drives where they aired it out and where the ball never went airborne. In the end, the Bulls threw the ball 41 times and ran it 40. Balanced as usual.
The Bulls kicked three second-half field goals to build their nine-point that were a direct result of great defensive play. Georgia Southern started a drive on their own 25-yard line in the third quarter and a wide receiver had the ball stripped from his arms for Buffalo to recover 18 yards away from the endzone.
They opted to kick a 23-yard field goal to move the game from a field goal game to a six-point game. In the fourth quarter, the Eagles were on the move after taking over on their own two-yard line. At their own 42-yard line, Vantrease threw a ball directly to linebacker Dylan Powell.
Powell returned the ball 14 yards to the Eagles’ 40 for the offense to take over. The Bulls pounded the ball down to the two-yard line before the Georgia Southern defense toughened up and forced a fourth-and-two decision. The Bulls kicked another short field goal to extend the lead to 23-14.
It would turn out they needed those three points to survive a late touchdown and get the win.
The game started slowly with six consecutive punts. There were two three-and-outs in there, but the offenses were on the move for the most part. Long third downs killed drives.
Georgia Southern broke the seal with a field goal as a result of a 65-yard drive to the Bull’s six-yard line. The 3-0 score didn’t last long and Buffalo responded on their next drive.
Buffalo went three for three on third down, converting on third-and-five, third-and-10 and third-and-11 on the way to the endzone. Wide receiver Justin Marshall started to make his impression on the game with two catches for 48 yards and a touchdown on this drive. The 32-yard touchdown pass was delivered beautifully by Cole Snyder, leading Marshall just inside the pylon for the score.
Marshall had career highs in catches and yards, 11 catches for 127 yards, earning him offensive MVP honors. His touchdown catch put the Bulls on the board and gave them the lead.
The Eagles would pull within a point on the next drive with a 29-yard run by running back OJ Arnold, a 19-yard reception by Beau Johnson and a 17-yard reception by Ezrah Archie to cross midfield and get into the redzone. Despite the chunk plays, the Eagles stalled out after a first and goal from the 10.
The Bulls would punch it in from the five-yard line with running back Tajay Ahmed to take an eight-point halftime lead. A 36-yard pass from Snyder to Quian Williams was the big play of the drive to get the ball quickly to the redzone.
The second half started with some foolishness by both teams. The Eagles tried a surprise onside that went harmlessly out of bounds. The Bulls looked to capitalize on strong field position, but fumbled the ball away on the first offensive play of the series in a comedy of errors.
A first down pass was caught on the boundary by Quian Williams and as he turned upfield, he lost the handle on it. The football (which I will remind you has two points and almost never continues in a straight path) bounced perfectly down the sideline for an Eagle defensive back to jump on it.
The very next play was a 79-yard touchdown pass from Vantrease to Joshua Thompson. The Eagles had two receivers behind the Buffalo secondary, but Thompson brought it home. A two-point conversion tied the game at 14-14, then the Buffalo defense decided the Eagles have had their fun.
Their next three drives were two turnovers and a punt. The Eagles and Vantrease orchestrated one more 90-yard, 13-play drive to move the score to 23-21.
Georgia Southern wouldn’t have a chance to get any closer, however, as the final Buffalo drive was a masterclass in how to kill clock. Eight plays, including a third and seven conversion from Snyder to Marshall, ran the final 3:38 off the game clock and secured the win for the Bulls.
Mo Linguist gets his first bowl win in his first bowl game and the Bulls get to ride this high into 2023, finishing at 7-6.
The Eagles played well, but will be disappointed with the loss, as they should be. Still, it’s a promising start for Georgia Southern and Clay Helton as they transition away from the triple option. Year 2 in Statesboro will be an interesting reset with a new quarterback.