Johnson’s career night leads Bulls past division-rival Red Hawks

October 31, 2018 - 2:46 am
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ESPN couldn’t have asked for a better game than UB vs. Miami (OH) to feature on their first edition in 2018 of “MACtion Tuesdays” on ESPN2. The Bulls and Red Hawks had themselves a barnburner of a game at UB Stadium with first place in the MAC East Division on the line.

Led by Anthony Johnson, who caught eight passes for a UB single game record 238 yards and three touchdowns, the Bulls out-gunned Miami’s (3-6, 3-2) offense and were able to maintain their undefeated record in the MAC with a 51-42 win.

The senior wide receiver had been battling a leg injury for the past month to six weeks, but after Tuesday night, he seems like he’s all the way back to 100 percent.

“Before the game my body was feeling good,” Johnson said after the win. “I know when I’m healthy I can make big plays for this team.”

With the victory the Bulls move to 5-0 in conference play and 8-1 overall. Eight wins also matches the most in a single season for the Bulls since moving to the FBS in 1999.

It didn’t take long for either teams offenses to get going on Tuesday night. Miami opened the game with a scoring drive that lasted just over three minutes and took an early 7-0 lead over the Bulls.

UB responded about as quickly as a team could. On just their second offensive play, Tyree Jackson hit Anthony Johnson in the middle of the field with a pass that was in the air for about 50 yards for a 75-yard catch and score touchdown to even the score at 7-7.

Jackson finished the night completing 20 passes on 35 attempts for 358 yards and three touchdowns. The quarterback also ran for three scores as well.

Miami marched right down the field again on the following drive, retaking the lead midway through the first quarter on a three-yard touchdown run by Alonzo Smith.

The Bulls responded with a solid drive of their own. Tyree Jackson capped it off with seven-yard touchdown run to tie the game back up at 14-14.

UB’s defense was able to record the first stop of the game late in the first quarter, but early in the second the Bulls found themselves in trouble after a blocked punt gave the Miami offense the ball inside UB territory.

The Red Hawks capitalized on the great field position and took a 21-14 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Gus Ragland.

Ragland had a solid game for Miami. Not only did he throw for over 300 yards and a touchdown, but the quarterback also led the Red Hawks in rushing with 71 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Once again, the Bulls were able to answer after trailing for a third time in the game. UB tied the game at 21-21 with about eight and a half minutes left in the half when Anthony Johnson caught a 20-yard pass from Jackson in the front corner of the end zone for his second touchdown of the night.

After a missed 50-yard field goal attempt by Miami kicker Samuel Sloman, the Bulls had a chance to take their first lead of the game before halftime. With 2:19 to go in the half, Tyler Mabry made a huge 11-yard catch and run to convert on 4th down and keep the drive alive.

With just 38 seconds left in the first half, Tyree Jackson gave the Bulls a 28-21 lead with a 5-yard touchdown run, his second rushing score of the game.

The Bulls offense picked up right where they left off at the beginning of the second half. On the first play of the third quarter Tyree found Anthony Johnson for another big gain through the air, this time for 58 yards.

A few minutes later, Jackson ran into the end zone for the third time on the night, putting the Bulls up 35-21 just over three minutes into the third quarter. It may have been Jackson’s best run too. He initially rolled out to the right, looking for a pass, but decided to turn back and run to the left and back up the middle for a five-yard score.

“The things he’s starting to do with his feet now are starting to put pressure on defenses,” UB head coach Lance Leipold said about Jackson after the game. “You can see he’s gaining confidence back in his legs and he’s not just scoring touchdowns but is keeping drives alive. The confidence he’s playing with is at an all-time high. I think our guys feed off of that, number three is a huge part of why our team doesn’t give up.”

It seemed like UB was finally in control following that touchdown. The offense was clicking, they had the first two-score lead between either team, and the defense seemed to have tightened things up and were back to what they were the previous two weeks.

But, Miami quickly answered back and on the next drive made it a one-score game once again with a one-yard touchdown run from Alonzo Smith.

The back and forth action continued and with about five minutes remaining in the third quarter Anthony Johnson caught his third touchdown pass of the night and gave the Bulls another two-touchdown lead.

Johnson’s third touchdown was also the catch that gave him the UB record for most receiving yards in a single game.

“When AJ’s healthy he’s the best receiver in college football in my eyes,” Tyree Jackson said postgame. “Having a guy like that on your team is awesome. He makes great plays and it’s a blessing to play with him. We have a great connection, there are times when he might switch a route up a little different but we’re on the same page and we understand each other, and like I said, he’s a playmaker.”

Just two and a half minutes after Johnson’s third score, Miami cut the Bulls lead in half again with a 59-yard touchdown pass from Ragland to Kenny Young.

With the score now 42-35 in favor of UB and plenty of time left in the game, Miami pulled a fast one and recovered an onside kick.

The Red Hawks offense came back onto the field and started their drive from the UB 43. Miami tied the game back up at 42-42 with just 17 seconds remaining in the third quarter on Ragland’s third rushing score of the night.

After trading a few drives and punts with Miami, UB found themselves with another chance to score following a pass interference call and a 20-yard pass from Jackson to Mabry that put them deep in Red Hawks’ territory.

Jaret Patterson’s four-yard touchdown run put the Bulls back in front 48-42 with 8:53 to go. Bulls kicker Adam Mitcheson made the game interesting after he missed the extra point following the go-ahead score. With how the game had been going and how quickly touchdowns were being scored, that one point (at the time) was crucial.

Luckily for Mitcheson, and the rest of the team, the UB defense found themselves in the final eight minutes of the game. With 7:23 left, they came up with a huge stop on 4th and 5 right around midfield and gave the UB offense great chance to add on to their lead.

The Bulls failed to score a touchdown following the defense’s stop. But, Mitcheson redeemed himself after the missed extra point by nailing a 37-yard field goal to put UB up 51-42 with just under four minutes left in the game.

The field goal not only made up for Mitcheson’s missed extra point, but it was also the 45th of his career, giving him the record for most field goals in UB history.

With two and a half minutes left, UB linebacker Khalil Hodge was disqualified from the game after making helmet-to-helmet contact on a hit on Ragland.

Hodge led the Bulls with 11 tackles in the game and in the first quarter, recorded his 100th tackle of the season, becoming the first player in UB history to have three consecutive 100-tackle seasons.

Losing Hodge for the final two minutes could’ve easily discouraged the UB defense, but on the next play after the senior captain’s ejection, Kadofi Wright sacked Ragland, forcing a fumble that was recovered by James Patterson, sealing a victory for the Bulls.

“James was supposed to score on that play but he fell,” Wright said with a smile after the game. “We just had to be focused. The game was closer than it should’ve been so we had to get on the same page and we just locked in on that final series.”

UB’s next game will be on Tuesday, November 6th when they host Kent State at 7:30 PM at UB Stadium.

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