The Eastern Michigan Eagles earned their first Mid-American Conference win of the season with a 37-27 homecoming victory over the visiting University at Buffalo Bulls at Rynearson Stadium, Saturday.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for Eastern (2-4, 1-1 MAC).
Redshirt freshman Reggie Bell was 8-of-13 for 144 yards and a touchdown, to go with 17 carries for 202 yards – a school record for rushing yards by an Eagle and an Eagle quarterback. He rushed for three touchdowns.
The previous overall record was held by senior Bronson Hill who ran for 257 yards against Ohio University on Oct. 19, 2013.
The quarterback rushing record belonged to Alex Gillett – 189 yards vs. Ball State University on Oct. 16, 2010.
“We were going to play Reggie today,” EMU coach Chris Creighton said. “We had some packages for him planned, and he led us down to a score which gave us a spark and after halftime decided to give him another series.”
Bell said he didn't expect things to turn out the way they did.
“I was ready for my chance,” Bell said. “I was just thinking on the sideline that if I get my chance, I just plan on executing and I did. I didn’t plan on doing this or doing that, but I gotta give credit to the offensive line making things a little easier for me as well.”
Joe Licata was 27-of-44 for 383 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for Buffalo (3-4, 1-2 MAC).
Buffalo took the opening possession of the game down to the EMU 10-yard line on a pair of scrambles from Licata on consecutive third and long plays, and a 32-yard run from running back Anthone Taylor. The Eagles stalled the Bulls, forcing a 27-yard field goal attempt from Patrick Clarke, who missed the try as the kick hit the right upright.
The Eagles took the next drive to midfield, and Bolden took a quarterback keeper on fourth down 48 yards to the Bulls 2-yard line, but a personal foul on EMU forced a replay on the down and also forced an EMU punt instead of a first down.
“I wasn’t able to hear what the penalty was,” Creighton said. “It was I think a late block on us, and Rob was way down field, so it was obviously unnecessary. It was a huge play in the game.”
Three drives later for Buffalo saw the first score of the game after Licata completed a 49-yard pass to wide receiver Jacob Martinez to the EMU 26-yard line on the first play of the drive. Two plays later, Licata completed a wide receiver screen to Marcus McGill, who took the pass 26 yards for the touchdown and a 7-0 Bulls lead.
Buffalo then took a 10-0 lead with 6:38 left in the first half, leading to the change at quarterback for EMU two drives later with 4:15 left in the period. Bell’s first drive at quarterback led the Eagles 70 yards in 11 plays and allowed kicker Dylan Mulder put EMU on the board for the first time with 21-yard field goal with 56 seconds left in the half.
Bell gave the EMU offense a spark on the first possession of the second half, taking a carry on the second play from scrimmage 71 yards for a touchdown. The extra point attempt was blocked, allowing Buffalo to keep the slim lead at 10-9.
EMU attempted a trick onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, only for Buffalo to recover at the EMU 43. The Eagle defense held strong, holding Buffalo to attempt a 40-yard field goal, which made the score 13-9 with 11:15 left in the third quarter.
EMU drove 65 yards to the Buffalo one yard line on the next drive, but failed to score after four plays went for no gain. The Eagle defense continued the vast improvement throughout the game, forcing a three-and-out and giving the offense good field position at its own 47.
Bell completed both of his passes on the drive for 40 yards and running back Ryan Brumfield capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to give EMU its first lead of the game with 3:00 remaining in the third quarter at 16-13. Brumfield finished the game with 16 carries for 62 yards and the one touchdown.
A sequence of turnovers occurred at the end of the third quarter, as Brumfield fumbled on the handoff at the EMU 12 yard line with Buffalo recovering. EMU safety Kevin Johnson saved the Eagles two plays later, intercepting a Licata pass at the two yard line.
A punt by EMU on the ensuing drive after the interception allowed the Bulls to have a first down at the EMU 28, but the Bulls were forced into another field goal attempt, which was blocked by EMU defensive lineman Mike Steals. The blocked kick was returned to midfield by Willie Creear and led to a 10 yard touchdown run from Bell to extend the Eagle lead to 10 at 23-13.
EMU continued to make plays on special teams, forcing Buffalo kick returner Devin Campbell to fumble and EMU recovered at the Bulls 23. Two plays later, Bell found receiver David Gibson on a fade route for a 23 yard touchdown.
“We’ve been working on fades in practice.” Bell said after the game. “That was a situation that we felt was a perfect opportunity for a fade, and it worked.”
After a Buffalo touchdown cut the lead to 30-20, Bell took a carry 72 yards for the victory-sealing touchdown for EMU. It is the first time in EMU history that a single player had two rushes of over 70 yards in the game.
EMU will travel to Foxborough, Mass. to play the University of Massachusetts next Saturday. This will be the first ever meeting between the two teams.
The Minutemen (1-6) earned their first victory in nearly a year, Saturday with a 40-17 win over Kent State University.
This is the third straight game UMass has scored 40 points in a game, losing 42-41 against Miami University-Ohio in Week 6 and losing 47-42 to Bowling Green in Week 5.
Creighton would not say whether Bell would start at quarterback for EMU next week or if Bolden would start his fourth game in a row.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN3.