New Faces Step Up to Help Buffalo Defeat Florida Atlantic, 34-31

Theo Anderson

BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo football team won its second straight game with a 34-31 victory over Florida Atlantic at UB Stadium on Saturday night. New faces helped the Bulls turn a 17-17 halftime tie into a 34-31 win.

The Bulls (2-2) rallied around back-up quarterback Drew Anderson who played the second half after starter Tyree Jackson went down with an injury late in the second quarter. Anderson, who previously had one career pass attempt looked sharp, completing 7-of-9 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.

The Bulls scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the game. They took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards on 11 plays, capped by a Jackson 2-yard touchdown run to take a 7-0 lead.

On FAU's ensuing possession, Ryan Williamson came up with an interception to give the ball right back to the Bulls. Buffalo took advantage and marched 79 yards on eight plays and took a 14-0 lead when Jackson scored on a 6-yard run – his second of the night.

Florida Atlantic (1-3) started to get its running game going on its next two possessions, scoring rushing touchdowns on 37-yard and 34 yards, respectively, to quickly tie the game at 14 with 13:25 left in the second quarter.

A field goal gave the Owls a 17-14 lead with 6:35 left in the second quarter. The Bulls then methodically marched down the field in the final six minutes of the half and Adam Mitcheson's 23-yard field goal tied the game, 17-17, at the break.

Theo Anderson scored the first touchdown of his career on a 7-yard run to give the Bulls a 24-17 lead with 2:17 left in the third quarter. Anderson saw the most action of his career and responded with 57 yards on 11 carries.

The UB defense stepped up on the Owls' next possession forcing a three-and-out. The key play was a third-down sack by Malcolm Koonce, the first of his career, to force an FAU punt.

On UB's next possession, Mitcheson drilled a season-long 42-yard field goal to extend the Buffalo lead to 27-17 with 10:54 left in the game.

FAU scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 27-24 with 7:30 left and got the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead. However, a fourth-down stop by the defense gave UB the ball back at the FAU 18 with 2:51 remaining.

After a couple short runs were stopped by the Owls, the Bulls faced a big decision on third down. They put the ball in the hands of Drew Anderson and the junior quarterback floated a perfect pass to Anthony Johnson for a 20-yard touchdown and a 10-point lead with 2:37 left.

Johnson finished with six catches for 87 yards and a score.

Florida Atlantic scored a touchdown with 1:13 left, but failed to convert the onside kick and the Bulls earned the victory.

"We played a lot of second string guys today and these kids battled their butts off out there," head coach Lance Leipold said. "We have a lot going on in our program right now that I am awfully proud of. Those guys are battling out there and we are building good depth along the way. This was a big one for us to get but there is still plenty to work on as a team."

Emmanuel Reed made his first career start at running back and rushed for 107 yards on 26 carries – his second straight 100-yard game.

The UB defense was led by linebacker Khalil Hodge who finished with 16 tackles. Brandon Williams had a career-high eight tackles. Cornerback Tatum Slack was all over the field with six tackles, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and three pass breakups.

The Bulls will go for their third straight win next Saturday at Kent State.