The University at Buffalo football team opened the 2014 season with a 38-28 win over Duquesne at UB Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Bulls got key contributions from young players on both sides of the ball getting the chance to step up and prove themselves in the absence of the All-MAC performers they replaced.
One such performance was by Ron Willoughby. The junior wide receiver, who had three career catches entering the 2014 campaign, had a career-best 10 catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns against the Dukes. He was the favorite target of quarterback Joe Licata who went 25-of-36 for 298 yard and three touchdowns in the game.
Junior running back Anthone Taylor posted his third career 100-yard game with 115 yards on a career-high 30 carries and a pair of touchdowns. He paced a running attack that rushed for 174 yards as a team. Sophomore Jordan Johnson finally saw the first game action of his career and rushed for 38 yards on nine carries. He used his big frame to bulldoze the Duquesne defense and convert key third-down-and-short conversions late in the game. Devin Campbell added 37 yards on six carries.
Licata did a good job of distributing the football as he connected with eight different receivers. Marcus McGill had four catches for 40 yards. Boise Ross and Campbell each had three catches. Matt Weiser had two catches for 52 yards. The junior tight end opened the scoring with a 41-yard touchdown reception – the longest of his career.
Weiser's touchdown came on the Bulls' opening drive. The next time the Bulls got the ball, they were driving again before the game was halted for 44 minutes due to lightning. Once play resumed, it took them only three plays to find end zone as Taylor rumbled in from 11-yards out.
Another Taylor touchdown run, this time from five yards out, gave the Bulls a 21-0 lead with 5:24 left in half. The Bulls seemed in cruise control until a muffed punt return gave the Dukes the ball at the UB 29-yard late in the second quarter. Duquesne capitalized and scored to cut the lead to 21-7 at the half.
The Dukes rode the momentum into the second half as they marched 75 yards on their first possession to cut the UB advantage to 21-14. The Dukes struck again on their next possession and an 88-yard touchdown pass tied the game at 21 midway through the third quarter.
Patrick Clarke put the Bull back ahead, 24-21, with a 24-yard field goal with 1:46 left in the third quarter. However, Duquesne responded and marched 75 yards on six plays to take a 28-24 lead with 14:55 left in the game.
After the teams traded punts, The Bulls regained the lead for good with an impressive nine-play, 97-yard drive that was capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass from Licata to Willoughby with 9:50 left. The Bulls sealed the victory with a 16-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped by a Licata to Willoughby 11-yard connection to make the final score, 38-28.
The UB defense was led by veteran safety Adam Redden who had seven tackles, including a pair of sacks, one of which came late in the game. Kristjan Sokoli and Lee Skinner each added seven tackles as well. The UB defense was stout up front, limiting the Dukes to just 51 yards rushing in the game. Brandon Crawford, making his first-career start, had a sack, forced a fumble that was recovered by UB's Kendall Roberson, and knocked down three Duquesne pass attempts.
"I told the team, nobody owes us anything, we have to go out there and earn it," head coach Jeff Quinn said. "Certainly not what I expected in terms of overall performance, but there were moments in the game when I saw our kids really dig deep and come up big, especially late in the game."
The win gives the Bulls their first 1-0 start to the season since 2010. They will next play at Army next Saturday.