With the win, the Eagles improve to 2-4 (1-1 MAC), while the Bulls fall to 3-4 (1-2 MAC).
The Eagles were led by freshman quarterback Reginald Bell Jr. The 6-3, 184-pounder completed 18-of-13 for 144 yards and one touchdown, but the Golden State native did much of his damage by rushing the football. He led all players with 202 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground, including a pair of 70-plus yarders.
Bell is also the first Eastern quarterback to rush for over 200 yards; the previous high for a quarterback was Alex Gillett, who ran for 189 yards in a win over Ball State, Oct. 16, 2010.
Bell acted as the catalyst for the Green and White, as the offense went from 73 yards of total offense to 484 yards after he went into the game with 4:15 left in the second quarter.
The feat marks the first time since Nov. 9, 2013, that EMU has turned in more than 400 yards of total offense, the last time being against Western Michigan University in a Rynearson Stadium MAC matchup. Additionally, Bell ran 10 times for 104 yards in the third quarter alone, when EMU outgained Buffalo 204 yards to 42.
David Gibson caught two passes for 47 yards, including a 23-yard catch for his first career touchdown reception, to lead the EMU receiving corps. Behind Bell, Ryan Brumfield had 62 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The team effort resulted in the best second half performance of the season, scoring 34 points.
Defensively, Anthony Zappone led all players with 13 tackles and also posted a career-best three tackles for loss.
Pat O'Connor was a nuisance to Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata, recording 2.5 sacks and six hurries. The team also had two interceptions thanks to Jason Beck and Kevin Johnson.
Special teams also did its part with a blocked field goal by Mike Steals and a 62-yard punt by Owen Dubiel that was downed at the two-yard line.
Buffalo was paced by Licata, who was 27-of-44 for 383 yards and three touchdowns. Anthone Taylor led the offense on the ground, as the MAC-leading rusher went 128 yards on 24 carries. Defensively, just one Bull had a double-digit tackle performance as Lee Skinner registered 10 stops.
The Bulls seemed to have found success on their opening drive, thanks in large part to two 14-yard rushes by Licata. With Buffalo in EMU territory, Licata created a 32-yard path for Taylor to rush into the red zone. However, the Eagle defense stepped up and forced a pair of incomplete passes. That led to a field goal attempt for the Bulls from 27 yards out. However, Patrick Clarke pegged the right goal post.
Buffalo opened scoring with a Margus McGill 24-yard reception from Licata at 2:53 of the first quarter. Patrick Clark added a 24-yard field goal midway through the second period.
Eastern came back with nine points. Dylan Mulder started the run with a 21-yard field goal, and the hosts trailed 10-3 at halftime.
Bell’s 71-yard burst on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter nearly brought the Eagles even, but Mulder’s PAT kick ws blocked.
Clark extended the Buffalo lead to 13-9 with a 40-yard field goal, but Eastern took over after that, scoring three straight TDs.
Ryan Brumfield started it with a one-yard run at 3:00 of the third quarter. Bell’s 10-yard run at 3:00 pushed Eastern’s advantage to 23-13.
Hunter Mann recovered Devin Campbell’s fumble on the kickoff, and two plays later Bell hit Gibson for 23 yards and a TD. That put the Eagles in front, 30-13.
Licata got part of it back with a 50-yard pass to Matt Weisner, but it still left the visitors trailing by 10 with 4:52 remaining.
Bell delivered the knockout blow with 2:52 left when he scampered 74 yards for a touchdown.
Devon Hughes tallied on a four-yard pass from Licata to close scoring with 44 ticks left.
The Eagles will hit the road for their next contest when they take on the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Buffalo has next week off and returns to action when it hosts Central Michigan Oct. 25.
(Courtesy EMUEagles.com/MRO Staff Edit)