It was an overcast day in Ypsilanti as the EMU Eagles hosted the Buffalo Bulls in the first MAC contest of the season for both programs. Buffalo was looking for a rebound after their loss to Coastal Carolina a week ago, while the Eagles looked to continue flying high after a win at Arizona State. Family day was a hit, the car show featured some great classic muscle cars, and the atmosphere was pretty good for a team whose cross-county Big Ten counterpart also had a noon kick-off. It was clear the fans were excited to see EMU turn a corner and start their march to their first MAC title since 1987.
After the team entrances (brick wall smashing included), Buffalo received the opening kick and takes it the length of the field for a one-yard touchdown run by QB Cole Snyder at the 13:11 mark in the first quarter. The Eagles wasted no time with Jaylon Jackson returning the kickoff for the touchdown, an 89-yard return to knot the game up at seven, 12:57 left in the first quarter. This is the first kick-off return for EMU since 2013.
Buffalo begins their next drive and crosses midfield in four plays. The Bulls used a mix of pass and run plays, keeping the Eagles' defense off balance, and a Cole Snyder 4th down conversion keeps the drive alive, as Buffalo continued to march. Buffalo uncharacteristically burned two time-outs in the first quarter, and immediately throws a touchdown strike, a 13-yard pass to Quian Williams giving the Bulls a 13-7 lead at the 5:35 timestamp of the first quarter. Interesting tidbit, Alex McNulty had a blocked XP on that touchdown, the first blocked attempt in over 100 tries. It wasn't until just five and a half minutes left in the first quarter that EMU starts their first offensive drive, and Hasan Bedoun has a BEAUTIFUL one-handed snag to move the chains on the third play of the drive. The Eagles relied heavily on Austin Smith, who set up his touchdown pass with a 29-yard scamper to the Buffalo ten, just to turn around and throw a strike to Tanner Knue, with Jesus Gomez kicking the go-ahead point after. A one-point game after the first and Austin Smith and Cole Snyder are doing it all.
Buffalo gets the ball moving to start the second quarter, and converts a key fourth down to help set up a first and goal before Chris Creighton burns his first timeout to slow the Buffalo momentum. This doesn’t stop Buffalo as they march 75 yards and punch it in at the 12:01 mark, a 2-yard Mike Washington run to give Buffalo a 19-14 lead. After an injury timeout, Alex McNulty returns to form, and bangs in the extra point to swell the lead 20-14. The Eagles set up shop on the 35 after another electric Jackson return, and Hasan Bedoun gets right to work with a 14-yard catch to open the drive. A Samson Evans runs for 9, and the Eagles are in plus territory on just two plays. Buffalo shuts down the EMU offense and forces the Eagles to settle for three, as their lead shrinks 20-17, 8:18 left in the second quarter.
Buffalo takes advantage of the defensive efforts and immediately takes a near five-minute drive to set up a 4-yard Mike Washington touchdown, and after the McNulty kick to take a commanding ten-point lead with 3:30 left in the first half. A great kickoff return is nullified by the wrong returner giving the signal, so EMU gets backed up almost 50 yards to their own 15 to start the drive. And as is usual in #MACtion, EMU takes just one play to go 69 yards to set up a short field on the Buffalo 16. EMU draws within three, and then immediately surrenders a MASSIVE kick return, Quian Williams stopped only by the kicker Jesus Gomez. Buffalo begins the drive in the red zone, only to get backed up due to a false start. Creighton uses his last time out with 13 seconds left in the half. After two pass attempts are no good, the Bulls trot out Alex McNulty to kick a 41-yard field goal to put Buffalo back up at the half, 30-24.
The Eagles get the opening kick of the second half, starting their first drive at the 30. In just one play the Eagles flip the field with a 26-yard pass to the Buffalo 34, and the offense gets Samson Evans set up for a score. A near disaster with the handoff miscue to touchdown, punching it in and regaining the lead, 31-30. 10:38 left in the third. Snyder with a huge strike to a wide-open Jamari Gassett for a 65-yard score, as the Bulls go back out in front 37-31, 9:15 in the third. EMU stalls on the ensuing drive, giving us the first punt of the game, at 8:40 in the third. Buffalo getting the ball at the one. The long drive for Buffalo to kill the third quarter gives us the first sack of the game, and what looked like a third down stop, until a targeting penalty on the Eagles gives Buffalo new life and a fresh set of downs on the EMU 23. The second drive stalls and Buffalo has to rely on Alex McNulty who is once again automatic, making it 40-31, after a six-minute 32-second drive with 2:08 left in the third quarter.
Buffalo begins the scoring in the fourth, another Alex McNulty field goal, adding on to their lead with 13:35 in the fourth. The explosive offense and stifling defense has had zero answers for Buffalo through three quarters, and EMU goes for it on fourth down, just to fall short at the 11:48 mark. Buffalo takes over with the momentum on the EMU 40. Buffalo continues to pound the ball on the ground, as Cole Snyder punches it in from 4 yards out and McNulty hits the extra point to make it a 50-31 ball game, 8:39 left in the fourth. The score didn't change from here, and Buffalo recorded the only interception of the game, a bounce-around ball that finally landed in the hands of James Patterson. Buffalo would close it out and walk off the field with a major win and would improve to 1-0 in MAC play.
This was an interesting game as everyone from Buffalo seemed to contribute. No receiver had more than 99 yards, and no rusher had more than 92 yards on the ground. Cole Snyder looked crisp on the day, 20/29 with two scores through the air, and two more on the ground. He was the leader Buffalo needed today, and this was a much-needed win for the Bulls. Eastern came out and dazzled early with the kick return and even had a 31-30 lead at one point before the offense stalled. It was then that the Bulls ripped off 20 unanswered points, turning this track meet into a blowout. Eastern Michigan might have had a different outcome with Taylor Powell under center, but you can’t take anything away from Austin Smith who went 12/19 and a score while rushing 12 times for another score.
Looking ahead, Buffalo gets a big win and now all eyes are on Miami when they come to town. Miami just pulled off a massive upset at Ryan field against Northwestern out of the Big Ten, making it 16 straight seasons that a MAC school has defeated a Big Ten school. For Eastern Michigan, the Eagles came crashing back to earth after their upset of PAC-12 foe Arizona State last week. They host UMass who should be a relatively easy out during Homecoming and should be 3-2 after next week. The Eagles will be fine, but an 0-1 conference start limits the mistakes you can make down the stretch.