Ohio can’t recoup after safety call, fall to Bulls, 30-3

A night that was hyped up to be a high-scoring MACtion fanfare quickly turned rancid for the Ohio Bobcats (6-3, 3-2) when they traveled to New York to face off against the Buffalo Bulls (7-2, 5-0). The ESPN2 Tuesday night matchup had many forces – both controllable and uncontrollable – working against the Green & White.

Those included:

1. Two botched calls early in the first and third quarters that resulted in 16 points for the Bulls.

2. A domineering performance by UB running back Branden Oliver (249 yards, two touchdowns).

3. A relentless attack by the Buffalo front seven, resulting in a 14-of-31 (45.2 percent) performance by quarterback Tyler Tettleton.

4. An injury to wide receiver Donte Foster in the second quarter and Tettleton in the fourth quarter

Early in the second quarter, wide receiver Matt Waters caught a pass, had his knee touch the ground and then lost control of the ball. The referees called a fumble on the field and didn’t reverse the play upon head coach Frank Solich’s challenge. The encompassing Mack scooped up the ball, which set up an easy drive for Oliver and the Bulls.

The bruising back carried Ohio defenders past first down markers all night long, and first found the end zone in the second quarter from two yards out. Buffalo jumped out to a 7-0 lead to finally get things going after both defenses stood stubborn.

The Tettleton-led offense failed to build up any momentum in the first half, however, both teams combined for 10 punts and seven penalties in the first 30 minutes. Safety Travis Carrie, despite fumbling a punt in the first quarter, made up for his mistake by forcing quarterback Joe Licata’s first interception in five games and in MAC play and coming up with a 17-yard punt return to put Ohio in scoring position for the first time all night.

Although an unaggressive set of calls by Solich resulted in only a field goal for the ‘Cats heading into the half, the way the defense had stood up against a Buffalo offense with multiple weapons and Ohio receiving in the second half kept Bobcat nation hopeful.

A safety call with 13:49 to go in the third quarter on the opening drive of the second half had the Ohio sideline shocked and frazzled. With Tettleton dropping back to avoid a rush by Buffalo linebackers Jarrett Franklin and Khalil Mack, the Ohio quarterback threw the ball within the tackles out of bounds, resulting in an intentional grounding call.

Tettleton got rid of the ball at the four-yard line, but the officiating crew called a safety on the field, which meant that the spot on the field couldn’t be reviewed. After the stunning call that put Buffalo up 9-3, Ohio looked finished. Buffalo made quick work of the ‘Cats defense coming off of the safety kick, moving 46 yards in 4:01 to put the Bulls up 16-3.

From that point on, the Bobcats collapsed. Buffalo went on to score three unanswered touchdowns. Oliver racked up 160 yards and one touchdown, while wide receiver Alex Neutz burned Carrie for three catches, 63 yards and two touchdowns from the safety call on.

Foster never returned from his injury, and Tettleton’s exit to the locker room because of an apparent injury marked the end of any attempt at a comeback for the Green & White.

Although the Bobcats’ hopes of making it to the MAC Championship are slim at best, Ohio will try to recoup for an attempt at a fifth-straight bowl appearance with three games left on the schedule. The Bowling Green Falcons (6-3, 4-1) await the ‘Cats next Tuesday night at Perry Stadium. The game will be broadcasted on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m.

GAME NOTES:

  • After passing for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in the three previous game, Tettleton mustered only 126 yards without a score
  • Oliver averaged 7.3 yards per carry Tuesday night and set the UB record for most rushing yards in a single game
  • After catching 28 passes for 383 yards and four touchdowns, Foster was limited to one catch for 10 yards before going down with a back injury
  • Tettleton completed a career-worst 45.2 percent of his passes Tuesday night
  • Ohio went into the game ranking first in the MAC in third-down conversions (49.1 percent), but punted eight times tonight and only converted on 29.4 percent of their third-down attempts
  • After rushing for 55 yards in the first half, running back Beau Blankenship was limited to 13 yards in the final 30 minutes
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