Butkus Award candidate Khalil Mack recorded his 13th forced fumble of his career in the second quarter and finished with five tackles and half a sack in the University at Buffalo’s dominant 30-3 triumph over Ohio University on Tuesday night.
The senior linebacker Mack punched the ball away from Ohio receiver Matt Waters which set up the Bulls’ first touchdown of the game by Branden Oliver.
“He’s a great player and we knew coming in that he was capable of putting you in tough situations throughout the game,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “We tried to do what we thought we needed to do to make it work.”
It was the Bulls’ 16th takeaway in six games and they entered Tuesday ranked second nationally in turnover margin (1.9) while carrying a lofty plus-15 ratio, including a 12-0 turnover edge in league play. For the season, Buffalo has forced 21 turnovers in nine games – five more than all of last season.
Oliver scored from 2 yards out on a direct snap for Buffalo’s 33rd touchdown of the season following Mack’s forced fumble. The Bulls scored 32 touchdowns in 12 games last season.
The officiating was questionable all evening and took a bizarre twist when Ohio was called for a safety early in the third quarter.
Bobcats quarterback Tyler Tettleton dropped back with UB’s Jarrett Franklin and Mack in pursuit. Tettleton tossed the ball away and was whistled for intentional grounding, a 20-yard penalty, and was called for a safety. One problem: Replays showed that Tettleton threw the ball from his own 4-yard line.
The play was not reviewable because you can’t challenge the spot of the foul, and UB took a 9-3 lead. Referee Tom McCabe told a pool reporter after the game he was mistaken in ruling that Tettleton had thrown the pass from the end zone.
Sophomore tailback Devin Campbell missed Tuesday’s game with a back injury.
Campbell is second in the Mid-American Conference in kick return average behind Massachusetts’ Trey Dudley-Giles at 23.7 yards a kick. Campbell has 450 yards in returns and one touchdown in eight games. Campbell is third on the team in all-purpose yards per game behind Oliver and Alex Neutz with 78 yards.
Freshman Boise Ross returned the first kickoff in place of Campbell.
Linebacker Adam Redden (knee) also missed the game while defensive end Colby Way (knee) and linebacker Blake Bean (foot) who were both questionable, started on Tuesday.
The Bulls committed their first turnnover in MAC play when Joe Licata was intercepted by corner Travis Carrie with 8:35 left in the second quarter. The sophomore from Williamsville South tried to hit Neutz from 35 yards out and was picked off in the end zone.
Three plays earlier, Licata was nearly intercepted Carrie but Carrie was called for holding against Neutz.
Neutz tied the school record of 28 touchdown receptions held by former Buffalo Bill Naaman Roosevelt, who played at UB from 2006-09, on a 24-yard strike from Licata with 13:05 left in the game. ... With an overall record of 7-2, UB is guaranteed its first winning season since 2008. … The Bulls have now won seven straight home games. … Since joining the MAC 14 years ago, UB is 5-2 against the Bobcats at home. … Licata and Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch are the only conference QBs who have tossed a TD pass in each game this season.