NASSAU, Bahamas — Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson rushed 32 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns to help secure the program’s first-ever bowl victory, as the Bulls defeated the Charlotte 49ers 31-9 in the 2019 Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.
Patterson was also named Offensive Player of the Game and punctuated the victory with his second touchdown run with 1:43 left in the contest. The Bulls’ final drive went for 16 plays and spanned 9:07. Patterson accounted for 81 rushing yards on 13 attempts during the drive, as he was handed the ball on the first nine plays of the possession to ice the game.
Buffalo defensive end Malcolm Koonce was awarded Defensive Player of the Game thanks to his five tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble. Koonce’s strip sack of Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds was recovered by Ledarius Mack with 0:06 remaining in the second quarter and helped the Bulls preserve a 17-0 lead heading into halftime.
“I’m really proud of our guys, especially after a layoff, to play as well as we did, as physical as we did,” said Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold. “We were able to establish the running game. Our defense, especially in the first half, played outstanding. We got some key fourth down stops, created a couple turnovers. It’s a team effort, but these three gentlemen sitting next to me (Patterson, Koonce, James Patterson) had great days and great seasons.”
Buffalo finishes the season with an 8-5 record, while Charlotte falls to 7-6 in the team’s first bowl appearance in school history.
“It seemed like any time we got a little momentum going, they took it away from us,” said Charlotte head coach Will Healy. “We did not execute very well. We did some things that didn’t help ourselves with some turnovers and some penalties and we didn’t tackle very well. That’s a really good football team in Buffalo and when you do those things this is probably the result you are going to get every time.”
Aside from Patterson’s performance on the ground, both defenses turned in solid performances. Buffalo held a slight 282 to 278 advantage in total offense. The combined 560 yards were the fewest in Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl history, which was a distinction previously held by the 2017 game between Ohio and UAB (812 combined yards).
Charlotte’s Markees Watts led all players with 11 tackles, while Marquavis Gibbs tallied an interception for the 49ers. Buffalo’s James Patterson (Jaret’s twin brother) also had an interception for the Bulls.
After forcing a 3-and-out on Charlotte’s first drive of the game, Buffalo marched 61 yards in seven plays to go up 7-0 at the 9:12 mark of the first quarter. Patterson ran the ball five times for 46 yards on the drive, while Antonio Nunn caught two passes from Kyle Vantrease for 15 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown reception along the right sideline of the endzone.
Nunn ended the game with five catches, 53 yards and the touchdown.
The Bulls went up 14-0 with 3:33 left in the first half on a sneak by Vantrease from the one. Buffalo moved the ball deliberately down the field for the score, running 15 plays (11 rush) and taking 8:26 off the clock. Vantrease gained five yards on the ground, while Patterson and Kevin Marks had 20 and 12 rushing yards on the drive, respectively.
James Patterson intercepted Chris Reynolds on the 49ers’ next play from scrimmage and returned it 20 yards to the Charlotte 12, setting up the short field. The 49ers defense held strong, though, holding the Bulls to a 31-yard field goal by Alex McNulty that put Buffalo up 17-0 with 1:25 remaining in the half.
Jaret Patterson added to the Bulls’ lead at 5:22 in the third with a six-yard touchdown run. Buffalo took over on downs to start the drive at the Charlotte 43-yard line with 9:07 on the clock, and it was a healthy dose of Patterson from there. He rushed the ball on five of the seven plays, including the score to put the Bulls up 24-0.
Charlotte got on the scoreboard with 2:20 left in the third on a 51-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Chris Reynolds to Victor Tucker. Tucker caught a short crossing route and did the rest with his feet, alluding several Bulls defenders en route to the end zone. The 49ers two-point attempt came up short, keeping the score at 24-6.
On the next Buffalo drive, Charlotte forced a quick 3-and-out. After taking over via punt on their own 31-yard line, the 49ers went 54 yards on 10 plays to set up a successful 32-yard field goal by Jonathan Cruz. That score cut the deficit to 24-9 with 10:50 to go in the game before Patterson and the Bulls put the game away with their final drive.