BUFFALO, N.Y. — The University of Massachusetts didn’t have enough to overcome its own mistakes and the University at Buffalo Saturday.
Coming off their first win of the season, the Minutemen hung tough for the better part of three quarters at a rain-soaked UB Stadium before the Bulls ran away with a 32-3 victory.
“I’m embarrassed about how we ended the day,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said. “I thought our team came out, we were ready to play, at least at the beginning. Defensively, I thought we really played very, very well in the first half.”
Consistency once again was a problem for the Minutemen (1-6, 1-2 Mid-American Conference). Quarterback A.J. Doyle fumbled twice and threw an interception while going 14 of 28 for 162 yards.
“We can make some plays, but our consistency absolutely kills us, and it hurts this football team,” Molnar said.
It was a tightly contested game at the start. The Minutemen drove the ball but saw multiple drives stall in a scoreless opening quarter. A tough two-minute stretch for UMass coupled with multiple self-inflicted errors, allowed the Bulls (5-2, 3-0) to build a 13-3 halftime lead.
Khalil Mack, the two-time All-MAC First Teamer, gave Buffalo a 10-0 lead on a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown with 10:13 remaining in the second.
“I saw Mack dropping with (Rob Blanchflower), I thought I’d have a guy hooking up over the middle of the field,” Doyle said. “I didn’t see (Mack) drop off, he just dropped underneath and picked it.”
On the ensuing drive, the offense lost Blanchflower. After a play with 8:29 to go, Bulls’ linebacker Jake Stockman wasn’t in a hurry to release his hold from Blanchflower’s legs. The tight end responded with a slap to Stockman’s helmet, prompting a personal foul and ejection from the game.
Not long after, the Minutemen also extended a late first-half drive for the Bulls. UMass appeared to have forced a punt, but a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct was thrown in front of the Minuteman bench following a third-down stop. Buffalo got the first down and Patrick Clarke capped the 13-play, 63-yard drive with a 36-yard field goal with 48 seconds left in the second.
“We had a disagreement with the official and I think that’s what led to it,” Molnar said of the penalty. “I tried to pin the official down exactly. I didn’t get the answer I was looking to hear.”
UMass responded quickly, though, scoring its lone points just before halftime when Blake Lucas squeezed a 42-yard field goal just over the crossbar in the dying seconds of the half to cut the lead to 13-3.
An unrelenting rain was present throughout the game, but picked up considerably in the second half. That seemed to be advantageous for Buffalo, which scored the game’s final 19 points.
Down 16-3, the Minutemen drove deep on their second series of the third quarter. Doyle had completions of 7, 23 and 14 yards to Tajae Sharpe, getting UMass to the Bulls’ 15. But on third down, Doyle fumbled untouched on a scramble and Buffalo recovered at the 20.
Buffalo, which has won five straight, gave the ball to running back Branden Oliver. The senior gashed the Minutemen for 216 yards on the ground on a career-high 43 carries, wearing down the Minutemen defense by the end of the game.
“I think at some point along the way, defensively, those guys just grinded and grinded and grinded,” Molnar said. “And then at the end I think at some point they just realized there was no hope. We just couldn’t get anything going offensively.”
The Minutemen will host Western Michigan (0-8, 0-4 MAC) on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.