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Buffalo stampedes Kent State 24-6 to improve to 3-1 in MAC play

Bulls keep Kent State winless in the conference standings by emerging in low-scoring punt fest.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 07 Central Michigan at Buffalo Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was by no means the most exhilarating football game Saturday afternoon in Kent, OH.

Buffalo and Kent State combined for 14 punts, eight of which were three-and-outs. But amidst the defensive struggle, the Bulls saw enough offensive success to record yet another win in the MAC standings. Buffalo (3-5, 3-1 MAC) scored 24 unanswered points to put the finishing touches on Kent State (1-7, 0-4 MAC), 24-6, officially snapping a two-game losing streak in the series and depriving the Golden Flashes of bowl eligibility.

While replacing departed head coach Sean Lewis with new frontman Kenni Burns, Kent State also lost all 11 offensive starters this offseason — including All-MAC selections at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and offensive tackle — and the team is still recovering from that exodus. The Golden Flashes entered Saturday tied for last in the FBS in points per game at 13.4, and by only sinking two field goals, they now hold the standalone title for lowest-scoring team in the country. Kent State was completely denied of the end zone for the fourth time this year in seven games against FBS competition.

However, it was the fastest start the Golden Flashes had witnessed in the Burns era. Kent State methodically drove 60 yards down the field on its second possession to lead to a 38-yard Andrew Glass field goal. Two plays later, Kent State’s defense secured its only takeaway of the game as defensive end Stephen Daley corralled an interception at the Buffalo 22-yard line. Although the offense remained stagnant despite golden field position, Glass added to the scoreboard with a 38-yard kick, handing the Golden Flashes their largest lead over FBS competition this season at 6-0.

The response was quite instant, thanks to Buffalo’s ability to break out for explosive runs against Kent State’s defense. Ron Cook Jr. and Jacqez Barksdale quickly ignited the Bulls’ offense, carrying the bulk of the load on two consecutive scoring possessions to hand the Bulls a 14-6 advantage.

Buffalo came out of the halftime break with a possession to stretch the lead to double-digits, as All-MAC kicker Alex McNulty drained his fifth 50+ yarder of his long collegiate career. But the only response Kent State had involved its punter. In six second half possessions, the Golden Flashes booted the ball away five times and suffered four consecutive three-and-outs — totaling six in the ballgame. They gained just 43 yards in the third and fourth quarters combined, once again shifting between quarterbacks Mike Alaimo and Tommy Ulatowski in hopes of finding a spark.

Collectively, the Kent State quarterbacks finished 12-of-26 for 78 yards and no significant production was observed in the run game, as the unit averaged 2.5 yards per carry. Led by defensive tackle Jaylon Bass, Buffalo dominated the battle in the interior with three sacks and managed to out-rush the Golden Flashes, 136-86. In addition to recording a game-high 1.5 sacks, Bass also recorded his first collegiate interception — in a rare game where every pick was hauled in by a defensive lineman.

Devin Grant and Joe Andreessen were also key contributors for a relentless Buffalo defense, combining for 18 tackles in the Bulls’ first game denying a touchdown since shutting out Akron in October 2019. Offensively it wasn’t a spectacular outing for the unit, but quarterback Cole Snyder bounced back from his Week 7 showing with 195 yards on an 18-of-33 performance. Barksdale was the star of the show with a season-best 84 yards on 10 attempts, maneuvering Buffalo downfield on its sustained scoring drives.

Kent State is officially out of bowl season for the second consecutive year after qualifying for the 2019 Frisco Bowl and 2021 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl under Lewis. The Golden Flashes are one of six FBS teams lacking a win over another FBS opponent this year, but so is their next opponent. Kent State resumes its season against 1-7 Akron on Wednesday, Nov. 1 in the midweek MACtion spotlight, hoping to earn its first conference victory under Burns.

Despite a disastrous 0-4 non-conference showing, Buffalo is tied atop the MAC East standings, sharing a 3-1 mark with Miami (OH) and Ohio — and both opponents still loom on the schedule. But Buffalo is about to test its mettle against the best the league has to offer. Before facing the other MAC East titans, the Bulls must travel to the Glass Bowl for a Halloween showdown at Toledo. All four opponents remaining on the schedule are .500 or above, and Buffalo needs three to secure bowl eligibility for the sixth time in seven seasons.