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Game Capsule: UB run defense offers some hope on a grim day

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – There was a glimmer of a silver lining in the University at Buffalo’s ugly, 35-3 loss at Boston College Saturday.

UB played tough, physical run defense. The Bulls held Boston College’s running backs to 124 yards on 46 carries – a 2.7-yard average.

Boston College is not a strong offensive team. The Eagles entered the game ranked 120th in the nation in total yards and 76th in rushing yards.

However, if UB can defend the run in the Mid-American Conference like it did Saturday, the Bulls will be respectable – on defense, anyway.

“For the first three quarters, I thought we held in there pretty well,” said UB coach Lance Leipold. “We got in some fourth-down situations. I still think our defensive line and front seven is a solid group. . . . Our defense is going to be one of the things that’s going to carry us a little bit right now as we look for consistency on offense.”

“We definitely came out rolling,” said UB linebacker Ishmael Hargrove. “They’re a power-run offense. We came out knowing they were going to run the ball. I felt the majority of the game we knuckled down and limited their rushing offense.”

UB stopped B.C. on each of its first three possessions and on six of its first nine possessions. But with the UB offense producing almost nothing, the UB defense was on the field too much. B.C. held the ball 43:07. UB had it only 16:53.

Records: UB is 1-3. B.C. is 3-2.

Bulls takeaway: UB timed the blitz just right with B.C. backed up near its own goal line in the second quarter. On a third-and-6 play from the B.C. 21, UB sent a seven-man blitz at Towles. He was sacked by Hargrove, who knocked the ball loose and fell on it at the B.C. 11. It led to a UB field goal.

“It was a man coverage,” Hargrove said. “If a running back is going to block, we pretty much freewheel to blitz. I was in coverage with the running back and I saw he was blocking. I saw a crease open and luckily I was able to get to him and get the ball out.”

Back breaker: B.C. broke the game open by answering UB’s field goal with an 11-play, 84-yard drive to a TD to close the first half. The big play was a 38-yard misdirection pass from Patrick Towles to Davon Jones to the UB 15. UB blew a coverage on the play.

It looked like UB would hold the Eagles to a field goal. But on a third-and-goal play from the UB 11, UB blitzed and the six rushers didn’t get quick pressure. Towles threw to the back of the end zone, just barely over the hands of UB linebacker Jarrett Franklin, and into the arms of Michael Walker. The score with 21 seconds left in the half gave B.C. a 21-3 lead at intermission.

QB runs: Towles, a graduate-student transfer from Kentucky, wasn’t particularly impressive, although he hit 14 of 25 passes for 234 yards. However, he hurt UB with 43 yards in scrambles at key times.

Lineup notes: UB was without starting right tackle Tyler O’Henly, who was injured in practice on Wednesday. Taking his place was senior Albert McCoy. Later in the first half, On occasion, UB shifted junior David Goldsby from guard to tackle and inserted freshman Tomas Jack-Kurdyla to guard. McCoy struggled to block B.C.’s best edge rusher, Harold Landry, who is an NFL prospect. . . . UB red-shirt freshman Dev Lamour saw significant snaps at safety, his first action of the season.

“We have a true freshman rotating in there, a right tackle who’s a senior who’s never started a game,” Leipold said. “That’s not an excuse, it’s fact. Not getting consistent movement was highly evident.”

Bills connections: Bills Wall of Famer Fred Smerlas, a Boston College great, was honored in the first quarter. The Eagles bring back a prominent football alumnus for every game. . . . Troy Flutie is a sophomore receiver for the Eagles. He’s the nephew of ex-Bills QB Doug Flutie.

In the house: Paid attendance was 24,203. Actual attendance may have been about 7,000.

Up next: UB opens its Mid-American Conference season at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Kent State at UB Stadium.

Email: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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