There were hopes that the University at Buffalo could overcome a three-point halftime deficit Saturday against Miami (Ohio) before 13,803 at Yager Stadium in Oxford, Ohio.
Then in two plays those hopes were dashed.
The Bulls lost a fumble at their 35-yard line on their first series of the second half. On the next play junior halfback Kenny Young broke off a 35-yard touchdown run to give the RedHawks a 10-point lead on their way to their 24-14 victory over UB (3-5, 1-3 Mid-American Conference).
It was the third straight loss for Coach Lance Leipold’s team in conference play and this one had little of the drama as the last two – the seven-overtime marathon loss to Western Michigan and the one-pointer to Northern Illinois last week.
“We did not play very well. It was not very clean,” Leipold said. “Things we strive to do well, unfortunately, today, we didn’t do very well. Positively, we battled until the very end, but never really got into any type of rhythm offensively today.”
Miami scored on its first possession – after UB won the coin toss and deferred its choice to the second half. Sam Sloman kicked a 37-yard field goal just 1:51 into the game to cap a five-play, 60-yard drive. Young scored on a 7-yard run to finish a 61-yard drive near the midway point of the opening quarter.
The UB defense settled down after an 8-yard scoring pass from freshman quarterback Kyle Vantrease to Anthony Johnson made it 10-7 with 5:23 left in the half.
The play, a fade pattern to the corner of the end zone, was the first career TD pass for Vantrease, the first true freshman to start a game for UB since Drew Willy in 2005.
Also, it was Johnson’s sixth scoring reception of the season. The junior college transfer from Rock Hill, S.C., finished the game with five receptions for 56 yards, giving him 49 catches on the season for 827 yards.
After Young made it 17-7 early in the third, the RedHawks added to their lead on a 1-yard run by Alonzo Smith with 1:43 left in the third quarter.
UB did not score again until Vantrease threw 11 yards to Tyler Mabry with 2:52 left in the game. That ended an eight-play, 53-yard drive. The Bulls then recovered an onside kick but ended up turning the ball over on downs, allowing Miami to run out the clock.
For the game, Vantrease completed 17 of 41 passes for 202 yards. He was intercepted once. The Bulls managed only 271 yards total offense, just 69 on the ground where they averaged only 2.8 yards on 26 attempts. Emmanuel Reed was limited to 56 yards in 13 carries, the longest 13 yards.
Miami’s quarterback, Billy Bahl, attempted only 20 passes, completing 13 for 177 yards.
Besides scoring all three of touchdowns on the ground, the RedHawks gained 172 on 43 attempts, a 4.0 average.
It meant a busy afternoon for UB linebacking star Khalil Hodge, the nation’s leader in tackles. The junior from Stockton, Calif., had 14 tackles, four solo, his seventh game with double-digits in that category. Hodge averaged 14.4 tackles coming into the game.
UB will be on the road again Saturday, at Akron. The Zips were leading the Mid-American Conference East Division before a 48-21 loss at Toledo. They fell into a tie for the MAC East lead with Ohio at 3-1.