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Buffalo runs through Charlotte 31-9 for first ever bowl win

Lance Leipold and the Buffalo Bulls downed the 49ers on the way to their first bowl win in program history.

Antonio Nunn (1) mosses Nafees Lyon (8) for the first points of the 2019 Bahamas Bowl
Photo Credit: Scott Clarke/ESPN

Jaret Patterson carried the Buffalo Bulls for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns on the way to their first bowl win in program history. Lance Leipold’s unit man-handled the Charlotte 49ers up front allowing only 278 yards while holding the 49ers scoreless until late in the third quarter.

Both teams entered the first bowl game of the 2019 season winners of five of their last six, but with a dominating performance in all aspects, the Bulls brought the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl trophy back to Buffalo.

Kyle Vantrease lit up the scoreboard first with a dime to the back of the end zone where Antonio Nunn high-pointed the ball and snagged his sixth touchdown of the season to put the Bulls up 7-0.

Winds swirled through Thomas A. Robinson stadium throughout the game, and Charlotte kicker Jonathon Cruz felt the impact immediately as his first attempt of the day went wide left from 33 yards out. Penalties and missed opportunities put the nail in the 49ers coffin as their chances of securing the first bowl victory in program history were blown away.

Two of Charlotte’s first three possessions stalled deep in Buffalo territory, with the first being the missed field goal and the second being a failed 4th down attempt from the UB 26-yard line. Buffalo would take a 17-0 lead to the halftime break following a Vantrease plunge from one yard out and an additional 3 from the leg of Alex McNulty.

The 49ers had overcome fourth-quarter deficits in three of their past five victories, but each time Charlotte looked to rally, the Bulls seemed to be one step ahead. A dropped pass on third down of the inaugural possession of the second half put the 49ers in position to cut into the lead, but again the Buffalo defense tightened. Will Healy elected to leave his offense on the field for a fourth-down attempt in their own territory, but quick pressure on Reynolds caused an errant throw and the Bulls took over on downs.

Charlotte scored their only touchdown of the day with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter as Victor Tucker snagged Chris Reynolds’ pass and took it 51 yards to 49er pay-dirt, but it was too little too late as the Bulls had already established a commanding 24-point lead. The 49ers settled for a field goal to make it a 15-point game with 10:50 to play, but that was as close as they would get.

Victor Tucker scored the 49ers only touchdown of the day. Vic finished the season with 52 catches for 909 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Photo Credit: Scott Clarke/ESPN

The Bulls responded with a methodical drive focusing primarily on the run-game, and Patterson rumbling for 19 yards on a 3rd and 18 was the back-breaker for the 49er faithful. Buffalo dominated in every phase and held AP All-American Alex Highsmith in check while not giving up a sack.

Will Healy has stressed throughout the season that this team’s goal wasn’t to qualify for a bowl game but win a bowl game. That is a box the 49ers must wait until the 2020 season to check off, but with a solid returning core and the best recruiting class in school history on the way, that goal is certainly achievable.

This was the last time that 19 seniors will pad up and play for the 49ers, and to continue the establishment of a winning culture, Will Healy will need a plethora of underclassmen to answer the call.

“At the 2-5 mark, nobody was doubting the process. Everybody was just hungry,” Sophomore quarterback Chris Reynolds said after the game. “Winning is contagious, and so is losing. To see us catch fire during those five wins and see the smile on everyone’s faces was special to watch, and I’m looking forward to carrying that over to next season.”

This was a magical season for the 49ers, filled with peaks and valleys and everything in between. Year one under Will Healy was one that built rapport and respect for this program, but that isn’t the end goal for Healy and the 49ers.

“We are excited about what the future of our program looks like,” Healy said in the final press conference of 2019. “Credit to these seniors and this group for being able to have this type of season and establish what is the first step in what we expect to be a really, really good football program.”

Photo Credit: Scott Clarke/ESPN

Notes

  • Jaret Patterson was named MVP of the Bahamas Bowl
  • 49ers Sophomore DE Markees Watts totaled 11 tackles, the highest in Bahamas Bowl history
  • Buffalo passed for only 77 yards
  • Charlotte committed 3 penalties for 20 yards, but they occurred at the untimeliest moments
  • The Bulls dominated time of possession holding the ball for over 33 minutes
  • This was the 49ers second-worst rushing performance of the season with only 80 yards on the ground, LeMay with 45 on 13 carries
  • Chris Reynolds completed 15 of his 24 passes for 198 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, and 1 Fumble
  • Seniors Tyriq Harris and Ben DeLuca have filed for medical redshirts to return for the 2020 season, and there is hope that Nafees Lyon will do the same