BUFFALO, NY – For the second straight week, the University at Buffalo football team dropped a nail-biter at UB Stadium. The Bulls fell to Northern Illinois, 14-13, in a defensive struggle on Saturday afternoon.
After Buffalo took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on an Adam Mitcheson field goal, Northern Illinois scored on its next two possessions to take a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter. The UB defense wouldn't allow another point the rest of the game.
Northern Illinois (4-2, 2-0 MAC) entered Saturday's game with not only the best defense in the MAC, but one of the tops in the nation. The Bulls began to find their groove offensively after NIU's second score.
Buffalo (3-4, 1-2 MAC) drove 81 yards on just four plays behind the arm of quarterback Drew Anderson. The junior signal-caller completed a 27-yard pass to Anthony Johnson; a 40-yard pass to Emmanuel Reed; a short gain to Tyler Mabry and capped it off with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Reed to cut the NIU advantage to 14-10.
The Bulls were able to drive the ball down the field on their next possession, but had to settle for a 22-yard Mitcheson field goal to make it a 14-13 contest late in the first half.
However, late in the drive, Drew Anderson went down with an injury forcing him to leave the game. Prior to the injury, Anderson was 13-for-18 for 191 yards and a touchdown.
Enter Kyle Vantrease, the Bulls' third different quarterback to play this season.
The true freshman, seeing the first action of his career, finished 8-for-16 for 153 yards in the game. The youngster showed poise and completed a 47-yard pass to Johnson and a 43-yarder to Antonio Nunn.
It was another big game for Johnson as the junior receiver finished with seven catches for 140 yards.
Khalil Hodge led the Bulls' defensive effort with 19 tackles. Jordan Collier had a career-high 10 tackles in the game. Cameron Lewis had five tackles and forced two fumbles, both of which were recovered by the Bulls.
"We're close," head coach Lance Leipold said. "We're showing we can line up for four quarters and play with these teams - that says a lot about how far we have come. But yet, were not there yet and that's my responsibility now to find a way to get that done. I can't be more proud of where we're at, but we can't keep coming in here talking about moral victories and stuff like that."
UB will next travel to Miami (OH) to face the RedHawks next Saturday.