KENT, Ohio – Kent State couldn't find a way to overcome a crushing swing late in the first half of a 41-21 loss to the University at Buffalo on Saturday at Dix Stadium.
A touchdown on a drive deep into Buffalo territory in the closing minute of the second quarter could have put the Golden Flashes ahead going into halftime. A field goal could have cut the Bulls' lead to just four points with the promise of getting the ball back again to start the second half.
Instead, those hopes turned into heartbreak when Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack intercepted a pass by Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon on a first-down throw from the Bulls' 9-yard line. Just three plays and 18 seconds after Mack returned the pick 45 yards into Kent State territory, Branden Oliver bowled his way into the end zone on a 17-yard run to put Buffalo ahead 20-7 at halftime.
"We had some chances early and we didn't take advantage," said Kent State head coach Paul Haynes. "We can't get into that position. We have to be smart with the football. And we still have to find a way to hold them out of the end zone and that didn't happen. There was still no panic after halftime. It was still a two-possession game … But every time we made one play, they made two plays.
"It wasn't the outcome we wanted, but our guys played hard and didn't quit."
Oliver's score at the end of the first half was the second of his four touchdowns on the day. The Buffalo back finished with 185 yards on 31 carries, including touchdown runs of 5 yards in the second quarter and 38 and 4 yards in the third quarter. The two third-quarter touchdowns extended the Bulls' lead to 34-7.
"(Oliver) is a good tailback," said Kent State defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix. "Once he gets started, it's hard to bring him down … That's why their offense is so potent."
Buffalo provided a quick answer to the Reardon-to-Goode score, however, as Joe Licata hit Devon Hughes for a 30-yard touchdown with 12:09 remaining. Licata finished with 285 yards on 20-for-31 passing. His 8-yard touchdown pass to Alex Neutz with 3:02 on the first-quarter clock opened the scoring. Roosevelt Nix blocked the extra point to keep Buffalo's early lead at 6-0.
"I was just playing hard," said Nix. "There really was not much more to it than that."
Reardon completed 20-of-33 passes for a career-high 260 yards. His previous best was 209 yards against Northern Illinois on Oct. 5.
Trayion Durham led Kent State in rushing with 57 yards on 12 attempts, including a 5-yard touchdown run with 14:27 to play in the second quarter to give Kent State its only lead at 7-6.
Kent State (2-7, 1-4) goes on the road for a rivalry game against the University of Akron on Nov. 2.
"It's now Akron week," said Haynes. "We understand it's now Akron week. We are going to send our seniors out the right way against Akron."
Buffalo (6-2, 4-0) will try to extend its six-game winning streak when it hosts Ohio on Nov. 5.
Freshman Colin Reardon threw for a career-high 260 yards. He threw his 11th touchdown pass of the season.
Junior Trayion Durham is now tied for ninth place with Julian Edelman in career rushing touchdowns with 22. Durham leads the team with four rushing touchdowns this season.
Senior Dri Archer scored his seventh touchdown in five games. Archer moved into sole possession of fourth place in career TDs at Kent State with 36, passing Eugene Baker.
Junior tight end Casey Pierce has career highs of five catches and 71 receiving yards..
Senior Tyshon Goode moved into sole possession of third place among Kent State's career touchdown reception leaders with 14.
Senior linebacker Danny Gress had a career-high seven tackles.
UB coach Jeff Quinn
"This is probably the most exciting time to be a UB Bull, I couldn't be more proud of how this football team has responded. We challenged them all week, we know we had to come on the road against a very good Kent State team. Give Kent State a lot of credit, they played hard, they have a lot of good football players. Our guys weren't going to be denied today. We knew the challenge and to be able to do it on the road against the defending MAC East champions say a lot about our football team."
"Our guys know how to respond and they know that if they go out there and play the way they're capable of playing that we can beat anyone, it says a lot about our leadership and the quality of kids that we have here."
"To be able to get 6 wins in a row shows a lot about our football team and how we've matured since the beginning of the year."
"The Khalil pick was huge, not only was Kent marching down the field and about to score, we were able to get another possession and convert it into a touchdown before half. Our defense continues to take the ball away and Joe continues to do a good job of not turning the ball over. We were also able to capitalize on another turnover by Lester. That 3rdquarter was huge, we knew what we had to do in the second half and Kent had some struggles being down at halftime, we knew if we could get them down a half we would have a good chance at winning."
"It was a tremendous day for all our players, coaches, fans, and our program."
UB quarterback Joe Licata
"It feels great, they beat us at home last year, to get a full team victory was great. Our defense stepped up and played amazing and our offense was clicking today."
1st touchdown drive
"They left the middle open and we had a play call where Fred was going over the middle and I threw it up there and Fred made a great grab. He's the unsung hero of this football team."
"I was confident throwing into the wind, we play in a wind tunnel back in Buffalo, so it wasn't anything that concerned me."
"Our offense line stepped up, you saw on the touchdown pass to Hughes how much time they gave me in the pocket, and it all starts up front, they did a great job of keeping me clean today."
UB running back Branden Oliver
"It feels great to get that sixth win and become bowl eligible, but the goal is still the MAC championship. We still have to keep getting better."
"I feel like I've improved greatly the past few years, I've gotten quicker, faster and matured on the field."
"This is my last year so I'm just trying to enjoy it and it's been great to be on this winning streak."
Of course that's not how we wanted the outcome to happen. But our guys played hard and they didn't quit. They fought to the end. We had some chances early that we didn't take advantage of. It's unfortunate, but good thing that it's Akron week and we understand it's Akron week. We're going to send these seniors out the right way against Akron.
Did you think you threw the ball well in the second half?
Yea we did. We moved the ball around and threw the ball well. We cut the deficit down a little bit and then they got a big play. I give them credit too. They're a good football team right now and got it rolling. But we will finish this thing.
Talk about the swing in the 1st half, you were going in down 6 and you have a chance to be up or down three and then it flips on you.
We sit there and talk about that. We can't get in that position. We have to sit there and be smart with the ball. Again, you sit there and turn it over and you have a chance to stop them. Then they get a big play on a drag route right before the half that got them down there. Then we need hold them out of the endzone which didn't happen. Their guys did a good job of getting on us in a lot of different ways. We still came out at halftime and had a chance, but penalties hurt you. Pre-snap penalties hurt you and then you're 1st and 20 or 2nd and 20. Those are hard to sit there and call. It goes back to the little things and doing the little things right by not beating yourself.
What was the talk at halftime about coming out in the first drive or two and do something?
We talked about it and I said we're going to come out and have a good drive. But if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen either. We're going to sit there and finish the game. There was no panic at halftime. We were still in it, only down 2 scores. But when we make a play, they made 2 plays.
You guys started moving the ball through the air a lot better in the second half. But those first couple of drives you guys struggled. You said penalties were the issue. Was that the main issue or was it something else?
Yes when you start with 1st-and-15, it's tough. Then you convert and your in 3rd and long again. Those are hard to sit there and convert instead of 3rd and 2 or 3rd and 3. When you get in those situations, we can sit there and convert them. It still comes down to execution. I'm sure when we look at the tape tomorrow, there's going to be some breakdown of execution. I'll say it again, just fundamentals and techniques of blocking and getting off blocks.
Players Quotes – Collin Reardon, QB;
What did you see on the first interception?
Reardon - "I was running it good all week, and I just stared it down a little bit. I thought there was no way he was going to be able to pick that, if anything it was the guy that was actually behind Chris, but he just stuck his hand out, stopped it and caught it and made a great play. I just need to go through my reads and hit another receiver."
Talk about starring the play down - making a good play.
Reardon – " The route is designed so that if they are in man, Humphrey is going to be coming underneath wide open with the two out routes and if they are in zone the two out routes are going to be open so you've got a dilemma. I think they backed off and might have been in a two man zone, so I kind of misread it, but Chris got a step on him and they dropped 46 [Mack] off the line and he [Humphrey] was there to collect. But you can't do that going into score."
When an interception happens, how do you regain your composure as a QB.
Reardon - "Run the game. It's a mistake, they happen sometimes. They shouldn't, but they do, you just can't help it sometimes. You find you're down 13 points, you score two touchdowns and you're back in it, but again we saw what we had and what we could do we just had to execute. Just little things here and there. Half-step too slow, too fast, then you go in the second half and you switch up the tempo. You start trying to go no huddle to see what the defense shows and call a play based on that. You just have to watch and learn. So we started to move the ball and that's when things got started rolling, but there was just too little time to left on the clock."
On how to get better in the remaining season.
Reardon – " More focus, just get more practice and listening more. Maybe I can do that somehow, just pay attention more and it's just little things. Once we get there maybe we can start to get it rolling. We scored two touchdowns in four to five minutes and it was just so close."
Roosevelt Nix, DL
Talk about going up against a tailback like that (Oliver).
Nix- "He was a good tailback, and their offense was potent. Once he got started he just kept going."