The University at Buffalo football team made history on Friday afternoon, defeating the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the 2019 Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, 31-9, for the program’s first-ever bowl game victory.
It took the Bulls four tries to earn a postseason win, but a dominant performance against the 49ers, a team that was making their first appearance in a bowl game, finally got them over the hump.
Buffalo seemed to be in control right from the opening kick. The Bulls opened the game with a seven-play scoring drive that covered 61 yards in a little over three minutes. The possession ended with Kyle Vantrease finding Antonio Nunn in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown pass. Jaret Patterson also set the tone on the Bulls’ first possession, rushing for 46 yards on five carries.
Vantrease found the end zone again in the second quarter, this time with a one-yard quarterback keeper, to extend the Bulls’ lead to 14-0.
On the second play of the next drive, Buffalo linebacker James Patterson intercepted Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds after Eddie Wilson tipped the pass. The Bulls capitalized on the great field position, as Alex McNulty nailed a 31-yard field goal to give UB a 17-0 halftime lead.
The Bulls picked up right where they left off in the third quarter. After the UB defense came up with a big stop on 4th-and-4 at the Charlotte 43-yard line, the offense followed up with a seven-play scoring drive that was completed with a six-yard touchdown run from Jaret Patterson.
Charlotte managed to cut into the lead late in the third quarter. Reynolds found Victor Tucker over the middle for a 51-yard catch-and-run score. The 49ers elected to go for two points following the touchdown, but failed on the conversion.
The 49ers gained a little bit of momentum late in the third quarter after they forced the Bulls to go three-and-out for the first and only time in the game. A 32-yard field goal from Jonathan Cruz made it 24-9 in favor of the Bulls with 10:50 left on the clock, but Buffalo took back control of the game from there.
Buffalo ran the next 9:07 off the clock with an impressive 16-play, 75-yard scoring drive that sealed the victory. The biggest play of the possession came when the Bulls were facing a 3rd-and-17 at their own 43-yard line with 5:40 left, and Jaret Patterson took a handoff from Vantrease and ran for 19 yards to pick up the first down and keep the drive alive.
Patterson capped the drive off with his second rushing touchdown of the game, and 12th over the final three games of the season. The sophomore finished the game with 173 yards on 32 carries to go with his pair of scores. The 32 rushes set a new Bahamas Bowl record.
Patterson’s MVP performance put a bow on what was, arguably, the best individual rushing season for a Bulls running back. His final 2019 stats of 1,799 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns, are both single-season program records. Patterson also rushed for 100-plus yards in each of the final six games and did it eight times overall, tying a single-season program record (Branden Oliver – 2011 and 2013). He still has one more year of college ball to play before being eligible to go to the NFL, so it’s safe to say Patterson will be on a number of preseason watch lists in 2020.
As for the Bulls, winning in the Bahamas to get the program’s first-ever bowl game victory seems to be a very fitting way to end an impressive season. Despite a 2-4 start, a quarterback change midway through the year, and, not to mention, losing a ton of talent from the 2018 team due to graduation, transfers, etc., Lance Leipold and company put together a solid campaign to finish at 8-5.
With their 10-4 finish last year, the Bulls finished with a winning record in back-to-back seasons for the first time since moving to the FBS in 1999.