BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – The University at Buffalo closed the worst run-defense season in its 18-year history at the Football Bowl Subdivision level Friday.
UB allowed 346 rushing yards in the 27-19 loss to Bowling Green.
That brought the season total to 3,039 rushing yards allowed or 253 a game. The old record for most rush yards allowed per game was 234 in 1999, UB’s first season at the top level of college football. Last season, UB allowed 185.6 yards a game. UB entered the season finale having faced the eighth most rushing attempts in the nation.
“We did not handle the running game real well,” UB coach Lance Leipold said of Friday’s game. “We didn’t tackle well again in space. Early in the game, we were not doing a very good job in gap integrity again. We struggled with that a lot of the year.”
Bowling Green had three rushers with 100 yards rushing for the second straight week. Fred Coppet gained 160, Josh Cleveland 109 and Donovan Wilson 107.
Coppet scored on runs of 7 and 52 yards. The latter was a strong-side play off right tackle. UB defensive end Joe Keels crashed to the inside, and Bulls freshman middle linebacker Matt Otwinowski was slow to scrape over the top of a block and get to the off-tackle gap. The speedy Coppet was off to the races.
Bad starts: UB’s offense failed to produce a score on its first drive in all 12 games. The opening drives produced only 10 first downs, and UB averaged only 2.92 yards a play on the first drives in 2016. The opening scripts didn’t work well last season, either. UB managed only three field goals on its first drive of the game in 2015. There have been no TDs on opening drives the past two years.
UB was outscored, 88-10, in the first quarter this season. Opposing offenses scored on seven of 12 opening drives (six touchdowns and one field goal).
Mr. 1,000: UB senior Jordan Johnson, the Sweet Home High product, rushed for 61 yards to finish the season with 1,040. He’s the sixth UB back in the last 10 years to have a 1,000-yard season. Johnson finished his career with 2,222 yards, sixth best in UB history.
TE record: Senior Mason Schreck set the UB single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end. He finished with 660 yards, breaking the mark of 625 set last season by Matt Weiser.
WR boost: Senior Marcus McGill had six catches for 142 yards in his final game. The Bulls got four catches for 92 yards and a TD from junior Jacob Martinez who missed the first half of the year with a shoulder injury and entered the game with three catches. Martinez used his speed to get open down the sideline for a 31-yard TD pass late in the second quarter.
“It was a go route,” Martinez said. “They went Cover 2-Man so I got an outside release and I looked up for the ball. Me and Grant were on the same page. He threw a beautiful pass – it was right over the shoulder, right by the pylon. It was beautiful.”
QB finale: Rohach’s 334 passing yards surpassed a 306-yard game by Tyree Jackson against Ball State as the most for a UB quarterback this season. Rohach transferred to UB from Iowa State as a graduate student this year. He had 279 passing yards in the final 34 minutes.
“I don’t know if you’d call it reckless abandon, but we were going for it,” he said. “We were putting it downfield, regardless if it was dicey or risky. I had faith in those guys to go make plays in critical situations.
“I’d throw for 5 yards if it meant we got a W,” Rohach said. “That last play will probably stick with me the most. It’s nice, the stats. But I’d rather have the W.”
QB injury: Jackson, UB’s freshman QB, was in full uniform but clearly was hobbled by the deep thigh bruise he suffered two weeks ago. He sat out his second straight game. Rohach tweaked his left ankle on the first series and had to come out for a play in favor of sophomore Drew Anderson. But Rohach was able to return for the rest of the game.
Going for it: UB players were visibly upset at halftime last week when the Bulls bled the clock on the last drive of the second quarter, down 14-0. UB played it conservative against the 14th-ranked Broncos and was getting the ball to start the second half. UB was more aggressive this week. After getting a TD with 1:02 left in the half, the Bulls called timeout on the next defensive series. Bowling Green was able to run out the half.
In the house: Paid attendance was 10,021. There were roughly 2,000 in the stands.