Red-shirt freshman quarterback Tyree Jackson did not complete many passes but made great plays with his feet in the University at Buffalo’s 41-20 win over Akron Thursday.
Jackson ran on a 10-yard read-option run off left tackle for UB’s first score. Then he made one of the biggest plays of the game after Akron pulled within 20-13 late in the third quarter. Jackson ran a quarterback draw up the middle for 38 yards to the end zone. It gave UB a 27-13 lead.
Jackson faked a swing pass to running back Jonathan Hawkins, who had sprinted in motion to the right flat. Then the QB took off up the left middle of the field.
“They all bit on Jonathan Hawkins because we’ve been throwing him a lot of bubbles this season, and they all bit on him,” Jackson said. “The offensive line opened up the hole and anyone could have run through that hole. It was a great job by the offensive line.”
Jackson ran nine times for 60 yards. He completed only 7 of 21 passes for 140 yards and one touchdown. But he directed a 64-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter after Akron pulled within 27-20.
Jackson capped it with a 14-yard TD pass to tight end Mason Schreck.
“Their answer to stopping the run play with Jordan Johnson was to bring the safety down,” Jackson said. “We dialed up the play action pass it was a good call and Mason made a good catch.”
“That’s the fastest I think I’ve seen him,” UB coach Lance Leipold said of Jackson’s 38-yard TD run. “When that big body gets going, he’s got a little burst. It wasn’t his best day throwing the ball. I don’t know if he ever felt comfortable with some things. But credit to him. . . . He might be frustrated or disappointed but he doesn’t ever seem rattled.”
Records: UB improved to 2-6. Akron, which was a 17.5-point favorite, dropped to 5-4.
Return TD: Akron’s most dangerous player, speedy JoJo Natson, returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown with 26 seconds left in the first half. UB had directed punter Kyle DeWeen to boot the ball out of bounds. But his kick went down the middle of the field 44 yards. UB had a line of defenders in position to tackle Natson, but he used his explosive quickness to split them.
Momentum: UB got some momentum back after Natson’s return by driving 50 yards in the final 26 seconds of the half to a 28-yard field goal by Adam Mitcheson. That gave the Bulls their 20-10 intermission edge. A 37-yard rollout pass on the run from Jackson to Marcus McGill set up the kick.
Deep speed: Natson scored again early in the fourth quarter on a 33-yard pass down the right sideline. It cut UB’s lead to 27-20 with 11:29 left.
Quotable: “I’m happy for our players and our assistant coaches because I know how hard they’ve worked,” Leipold said. “It’s been disappointing and frustrating to this point. To see some things come together, especially on a short week and when a lot of people had counted us out completely, I’m happy and proud of that.”
Defense: Akron quarterback Tommy Woodson had thrown for 300 or more yards in four of his five starts, with only Wisconsin holding him below that total. But Woodson was only 18 of 42 passing for 178 yards against UB. Akron managed to run for only 128 yards on 42 carries, a 3.0-yard average.
“We got whooped solid pretty much every which way today,” said Akron coach Terry Bowden. “Buffalo did a great job coming ready to play and whooped us. Defensively they shut us down. If we don’t get a punt return, I don’t think we score a touchdown.”
CBs injured: UB was without starting cornerback Boise Ross, who suffered a minor knee injury Saturday at Ball State. There’s a good chance Ross will be back for the next game. His backup, sophomore Brandon Williams, also sat out. Making his first career start in place of Ross was sophomore Tatum Slack, a sophomore from Upland, Calif., just west of Los Angeles. Slack played last season at a California junior college. Junior Andrews Dadeboe split time with Slack.
Lineups: Sophomore defensive tackle Myles Nicholas made his first career start. . . . UB right tackle Tyler O’Henly remains out with a concussion. UB defensive tackle Chris Ford sat out a second straight game.
Hit of the day: DeWeen had a 44-yard punt with a 4.8-second hang time early in the second quarter, and Jordan Collier leveled Natson for a 3-yard loss.
In the house: Paid attendance was 15,012, but as with all mid-week MAC games, there actual attendance was a fraction of that. There may have been 700 in the building.
Up next: UB travels to Athens, Ohio, for a game against Ohio University (6-3) at 6 p.m. on Thursday.