PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Tyree Jackson knew he had an uncharacteristic start in the University at Buffalo football team's 42-13 win Saturday at Rutgers.
The Bulls quarterback opened the game 0-for-3 passing with an interception, which may have led some to wonder: Is this the same quarterback who started the season in such a scorching fashion?
Bulls coach Lance Leipold didn't worry about Jackson, who entered the game averaging 263 passing yards and four touchdowns in UB's first three games.
"All three of those were catchable balls that should have been caught," Leipold said. "The guys will say that. It wasn't the start we wanted but those throws were where they needed to be. We did a lot of things that make it look like we're not ready to go, per se, in a Big Ten Stadium."
Halfway through the second quarter, Jackson and UB's passing game found a rhythm. Jackson threw for 131 yards in the second quarter on 7 of 11 passing, and Jaret Patterson ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns to help the Bulls to a 35-6 lead at halftime against the Scarlet Knights.
"We knew that anything that happened in the beginning was a reflection of us," said Jackson, who finished 14-for-28 passing for 263 yards and three touchdowns and was intercepted twice. "We were inflicting wounds on ourselves and we just continued to push through."
Jackson also helped UB reach a program milestone. The win Saturday at HighPoint.com Stadium gave UB a 4-0 record for the first time as an FBS program.
"It's definitely a blessing, but we've got to flush this behind us," Jackson said. "It's a good win for the team but now we have to focus on Army and get ready for the next game. The guys we have on this team, they're going to have the same mindset, so we're just going to continue to grow."
UB wide receiver Anthony Johnson shared Jackson's tempered outlook.
"It's great, but we're going to keep on working, every week," said Johnson, who had two catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. "We're not going to take anybody for granted. We're going to come out here and work hard."
The Bulls (4-0, 1-0 MAC) outgained Rutgers 445-284, including 376 to 103 in the first half. Of those 376 yards, Jackson passed for 222 in the first half, including three lengthy completions.
Jackson threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Johnson to help UB take a 7-3 lead with 6:22 left in the first quarter, then found Johnson for a 59-yard pass on second-and-8 from the UB 39 early in the second quarter, which set up Kevin Marks' 1-yard touchdown three plays later, that gave the Bulls a 21-6 lead.
Jackson then found Charlie Jones for a 53-yard touchdown pass with 8:16 left in the half, which gave the Bulls a 28-6 lead.
"Tyree is always going to make big plays for us and get the ball to us," Johnson said. "Tyree is always going to do his job and help us out with the plays. We expect big things from him, each and every game."
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The Bulls took advantage of the beleaguered Scarlet Knights (1-3, 0-1 Big Ten), who have given up 149 points in their last three games, and who couldn't produce much offense in the first half.
Giovanni Rescigno replaced freshman starting quarterback Artur Sitkowski (6-for-13 passing, 39 yards) with five minutes left in the second quarter, and the Scarlet Knights got inside the red zone only twice in the first half. Both times, Justin Davidovicz kicked field goals, including a 34-yard kick that cut Buffalo's lead to 14-6 less than two minutes into the second quarter.
"We've got to stop making mistakes and beating ourselves," Rutgers coach Chris Ash said. "Every time we're close to getting something going, there's something that stops us, whether it's a mental error, it's a penalty, something foolish stops our football team and we've got to get that fixed, somehow, some way."
Raheem Blackshear scored Rutgers' only touchdown six seconds into the fourth, but the Scarlet Knights started to show life in the fourth, when Damon Hayes intercepted Jackson at the Rutgers 48. Rescigno (12-for-24, 129 yards) moved Rutgers to the UB 11 on a 24-yard pass to Eddie Lewis, but UB defensive end Chuck Harris sacked Rescigno on fourth-and-6 from the UB 7 to end the scoring threat and to turn the momentum back in UB's favor.
"We were a little sluggish on the sideline," Johnson said of the fourth. "That play just boosted us right back up to where we were supposed to be, and that just made us work even harder."
Notes: Buffalo announced Friday that it awarded scholarships to walk-on players Nicco Ruggiero and Jake Molinich. Ruggiero is a junior linebacker from Staten Island who has appeared in two games this season. Molinich is a redshirt sophomore tight end from Pittsford who has played in three games this season. … Johnson was limited in the second half, and neither Leipold nor Johnson elaborated on the nature of Johnson's injury. Johnson, however, said he expects to be back in preparation for UB's noon kickoff this Saturday against Army. "He should be fine," Leipold said. … Leipold said linebacker Cam Lewis, who had to be helped off the field about two minutes in the second half, was also cleared to return to the game. "Where the score was, we didn't feel that was the opportunity for them (to return)," Leipold said. … The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press reported that Buffalo will receive a payout of $900,000 for the game Saturday in Piscataway.