TOLEDO, Ohio — In all the time James O’Hagan spent in the weight room this summer with his University at Buffalo football teammates, the center has a particular recollection of a bantam freshman who simply put his head down and produced.
Jaret Patterson worked hard, didn’t complain and only expected the best from himself and his teammates.
“He’s always showing a lot of grit, and that’s something he prides himself on,” said O’Hagan, UB’s starting center. “He’s a strong little kid, and he doesn’t talk much in the weight room, but he backs it up with what he puts on the field.”
O’Hagan saw the same production from Patterson in the fourth quarter of the Bulls’ 31-17 win Saturday at Toledo.
The freshman from Glendale, Md., ran for two touchdowns in the final 13 minutes to help the Bulls (7-1, 4-0 MAC) rally from a 17-7 halftime deficit against the Rockets.
Patterson broke a 17-17 tie 2:05 into the fourth quarter on a 6-yard touchdown run that ended a three-play, 45-yard drive set up by Brandon Williams’ interception of Toledo quarterback Eli Peters (5-for-17 passing, 128 yards, touchdown, one interception) 1:15 into the fourth quarter.
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About six minutes later, the Bulls needed six running plays to zip to the Toledo 30, then moved to the 25 on an offsides penalty against Tuzar Skipper on fourth-and-2. Patterson took a handoff from UB quarterback Tyree Jackson on the next play, found a hole, broke a tackle, scooted to his left and rushed along the UB sideline for his second touchdown, with 2:49 left.
“The offensive line, our tight end made a great block, and I went in and scored,” Patterson said of his first touchdown. “And on the other touchdown, there was a big hole and the offensive line did a great job, and I broke a tackle and just hit it.”
Patterson helped put away the Rockets and helped the Bulls take a one-game lead over Miami (Ohio) in the MAC East Division. The Bulls host the RedHawks at 8 p.m. Oct. 30 at UB Stadium.
“He’s a tough little guy right there,” O’Hagan said of Patterson, who is generously listed at 5-foot-9 on the Bulls’ game-day roster. “When you see him run, it takes two or three guys to take him down. He turns those three-yard carries into four-yard carries, and those five-yard carries into explosive runs, like he did today, especially at the end of the game there on the final touchdown. He broke a tackle and he was off to the races.”
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UB wide receiver Anthony Johnson believes Patterson has the potential to join some of the productive running backs that have come through Buffalo. Patterson, Johnson explained, has quickly earned trust among his teammates for his work ethic and resilience on the field.
“We know he’s going to give all he has when he goes out there,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to tackle that guy. He runs guys over. He gets the offense pumped up.”
Patterson has 480 yards and seven touchdowns on 90 carries in eight games. Since a breakout game in which Patterson ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-13 win Sept. 22 at Rutgers, Patterson has averaged 81.8 rushing yards in the Bulls’ last five games. The only dip came in a 42-13 loss Sept. 29 against Army, when Patterson had two carries for three yards.
Patterson and Kevin Marks have become the Bulls’ bell cow running backs, combining for 1,059 yards and 14 touchdowns on 202 carries in eight games. But they didn’t get going until the fourth quarter. The Bulls couldn’t get much movement early at the Glass Bowl, accruing just 44 yards in the first half and had only nine yards on 10 carries in the third quarter.
That was in part due to the Rockets (3-4, 1-2), who stacked the box and didn’t give the Bulls much room to move. It was also due in part to the play of a subpar UB offensive line.
“We had, probably, our worst game of the season,” O’Hagan said.
The offensive line didn’t help Jackson, who was sacked five times, despite throwing for two touchdowns and a season-high 326 yards.
Jackson (25-for-46 passing, three interceptions) didn't fret over the offensive line, who gave up one sack prior to Saturday.
“That’s the thing, no one in this locker room was worried about those guys,” said Jackson, whose previous season-high for passing was 325 yards in a 35-28 win Sept. 15 against Eastern Michigan. “They’re the anchor of our offense. Those guys are all veteran players who know how to play. They really picked it up.”
Jackson wasn’t worried about the run game, which had 84 yards on 21 carries in the fourth. He wasn’t worried about Patterson, either.
“When you have a guy like Jaret Patterson, he’s going to make the plays,” Jackson said. “He’s going to make people miss. That’s what he does.”
The offensive line pulled itself together to open holes and as the Bulls took control of the fourth, O’Hagan thought back to those summer workouts with Patterson and his teammates.
“The stress in the entire summer conditioning and in summer workouts was, you guys gotta win the fourth quarter,” O’Hagan said. “That’s when you’ve got to come out and win. Finishing it off, we have a fourth-quarter mentality and this team showed that today.”
Saturday at Toledo, the Bulls didn’t have the luxury of scoring a lot of points in the first quarter and counting on maintaining a lead in the second half. Similar to a 24-6 win last week against Akron, the Bulls produced in the second half to win a game that many figured would be high-scoring.
They also shut out the Rockets in the second half, holding the ball for more than 21 minutes and allowing the Rockets only 22 plays.
“Overall, when it came down to it, we ran the ball effectively,” O’Hagan said. “Especially those last two drives. We got a couple critical first downs, and that’s a testament to our O-line. Guys like Tomas Jack-Kurdyla and Paul Nosworthy worked really hard today and they did a great job, when sometimes they weren’t feeling their best.
“We proved extremely resilient. … When it came down to it, everybody stepped up.”
Especially Patterson, who produced in the fashion of someone years beyond a college freshman.
“Toledo made it hard to for us to find holes in the first half,” Patterson said. “Once we passed, it opened the run, for it to balance out.
“And it showed a lot about our team that we never gave up, how together this team is and how we rallied back.”