Buffalo, NY - The term "icing a game" has never been so literal. As dark clouds turned to rain and the brisk wind whipped a frigid autumn cold, Buffalo stayed red hot, getting a 35-yard field goal from A.J. Principe with 3:12 to go to ice their fourth MAC win of the year, 26-10 over Akron.
Bull Celebrate with Fans/Photo: Brian Golden
Under a bleak sky, Buffalo (3-0, 4-1, 4-5) got 125 passing yards and three passing touchdowns from quarterback Drew Willy to claim its third MAC East win and secure a winning record at home for the first time since moving up to Division IA in 1999.
In eight MAC campaigns, the Bulls have posted a record of only 8-56, but this year stand at 4-1 (3-0 in the MAC East) and control their own destiny in the East division.
Coming off a bye week which followed two straight contests that were decided in the final seconds, Akron (1-2, 2-2, 3-5) opened the scoring with a 13-play, 80-yard TD drive to grab a 7-0 lead.
But Buffalo promptly answered, marching 55 yards in just 8 plays, and getting a key completion from Willy to TE Jesse Rack on 3rd down and 4 from the Zips' 39-yard line. Three plays later, Willy found Ernest Jackson for an 11 yard TD toss.
The Bulls' junior quarterback finished 11 of 14 passing with the three scores, which tied a career high.
After forcing an Akron punt, Buffalo went back to work, and thanks to a 34-yard run by Naaman Roosevelt, quickly found itself in scoring position again. On the play, the versatile sophomore lined up at quarterback.
"When coach calls that kind of play, it's pretty much just go in there and try to execute it," Roosevelt says. "I give coach tons of credit for calling those plays at the right time."
Roosevelt had three catches for 34 yards, and capped the Bulls' second scoring drive with a 9-yard TD catch in traffic, giving Buffalo a 13-7 lead it would not relinquish.
From there, the scoring pace slowed, with each team fighting the harsh winds, which reached 35 miles per hour, and a misty rain that began in the second half and became a pounding sideways drizzle by game's end.
"We had the wind in the fourth quarter, so I wouldn't say the weather bothered us much until the rain started," Akron Head Coach J.D. Brookhart said afterward. "And that made things difficult for us, for sure."
Brookhart may have understated the weather's impact. Only 125 of Akron's 327 yards came after halftime, as the Zips fought both the elements and a tenacious Buffalo defensive front that asserted more and more pressure as the game progressed.
For Buffalo, the win was just another in a season of firsts. The Bulls logged their first win in nine tries against Akron, and gained momentum heading in to next week's showdown against the MAC East's second place squad, the Miami Redhawks. Akron had won the schools' first eight meetings by an average score of 32-14.
With a win, the Bulls will clinch no worse than a tie for the East title, a remarkable feat for a program that ESPN.com ranked the worst in college football prior to the season.
Sophomore James Starks led the Bulls' ground game with 91 yards on 24 carries. Akron freshman Bryan Williams paced the Zips with 21 carries for 87 yards.
Akron is at Bowling Green next Friday, while Buffalo plays Miami on Saturday afternoon.