Army's ground attack hands Buffalo its first loss, 42-13
By JONAH BRONSTEIN | Associated Press | Published: September 29, 2018
AMHERST, N.Y. — Army didn't allow the disappointment from its overtime loss to No. 5 Oklahoma linger into the next week.
"We couldn't let that beat us twice," cornerback Elijah Riley said.
The Black Knights mixed in a few big scoring plays with its ground-control offense to defeat previously unbeaten Buffalo 42-13 on Saturday and get back on track toward bowl eligibility.
Riley returned a blocked field goal 80 yards for a touchdown and Kevin Hopkins threw a 25-yard touchdown to Jordan Asberry to bolster Army's triple-option offense that gained 281 yards and scored four times on the ground while running up 37:34 in time-of-possession.
"When you can get a big chunk play in there it makes it a lot easier," Army coach Jeff Monken said. "It gives you a little breathing room. You don't feel like you've got to go 16 plays, 19 plays, hammering it 3 or 4 yards all the way down the field. It's hard to do."
Army (3-2) was still able to put together four scoring drives of at least 10 plays and 74 yards, which helped to limit a Buffalo offense that had averaged 40.2 points and 428.8 yards over its first four wins.
"We knew they have an explosive offense, so we just wanted to stay on the field as much as possible," Hopkins said.
Hopkins led the Black Knights with 89 yards on 19 carries. He also completed 4 of 5 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown after being intercepted on his first attempt. Calen Holt, Connor Slomka, Darnell Woolfolk and Luke Langdon had rushing touchdowns.
Having led the nation in rushing last season, Army (3-2) came into the game ranked fourth at 314.8 yards per game while leading the country in time of possession at 40:53.
The Bulls (4-1) took an early lead when KJ Osborn tip-toed down the sideline for a 53-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the game. But they finished with 255 total yards.
"We haven't had our backs to the wall like that, down like that and we didn't respond well," Buffalo coach Lance Leipold said.
Tyree Jackson had his worst game of the season for Buffalo, completing 10 of 24 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. Jackson averaged 263 yards over the first four games and was tied for third in the nation with 15 touchdown passes.
Kevin Marks also scored on a 1-yard run to get Buffalo within 21-13 in the third quarter.
Army: Recovering from an overtime loss against No. 5 Oklahoma last week, the Black Knights have a winning record through five games in three straight seasons for the first time since 1984-86. Their five opponents had a combined record of 17-3 entering Saturday.
Buffalo: Playing before the fifth-largest crowd in UB Stadium history (23,671) after starting 4-0 for the first time since 1981 — when they played at the Division III level — the Bulls snapped a seven-game winning streak dating to last season. That was tied for the fourth-longest nationally and one shy of the program record.
Buffalo receiver Anthony Johnson, a preseason All-American, played only a handful of snaps due to a hamstring and did not have a pass thrown his way.
Johnson was mostly used as a decoy on red zone plays. Without him on the field, the Bulls struggled to find a rhythm in passing game after the first drive.
"AJ is a great player but the way this team is, we are not going to make excuses," Jackson said.
Buffalo had a chance build on its lead in the first quarter but had a 22-yard touchdown run from Emmanuel Reed nullified by a holding penalty and turned it over on downs from the Army 26 after four incompletions by Jackson, who was 1 of 9 in the first quarter.
Army scored on its next two drives, running 23 plays and possessing the ball for 12:39 before Jackson drove the Bulls to the Army 11. But Wunmi Oyetuga rushed up the middle to block Adam Mitcheson's field goal attempt right into Riley's arms, and he raced down field to give Army a two-touchdown lead.
"It's awesome when you get an explosive play form the defense or special teams like that," Hopkins said. "We want to score whenever we get on the field but knowing that the defense can make plays and put the ball in the end zone is a great bonus."
Buffalo received six votes in last week's poll but is unlikely to merit consideration after falling from the unbeaten ranks. Some of those votes could go to Army, whose only losses have come on the road against No. 22 Duke and No. 5 Oklahoma.
Army: The Black Knights head into a bye week before traveling to San Jose State on Oct. 13 to finish a three-game road swing.
Buffalo: The Bulls return to Mid-American Conference play next Saturday at Central Michigan.