BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Homegrown talent won the day for University at Buffalo’s football team at the Camellia Bowl.
Starpoint graduate Tajay Ahmed came off the bench to rush for 98 yards and a touchdown, and Southwestern’s Cole Snyder passed for 265 yards and a touchdown, as UB beat Georgia Southern 23-21 on Tuesday in Montgomery, Alabama to finish with a 7-6 record in coach Maurice Linguists’ second season.
“This win is for the City of Buffalo,” said Ahmed, a Lockport native, in his postgame interview on 1520 AM radio.
Camellia Bowl MVP Justin Marshall had a career-best 11 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown, UB’s record-setting kicker Alex McNulty made three field goals, and the Bulls claimed their third consecutive bowl victory over the past four seasons, and first under Linguist.
Ahmed, whose father Chaz was a star receiver for UB in the early 90s, took over as the primary ballcarrier for the first time in his four seasons as a Bull after starter Mike Washington injured his ankle in the first quarter. UB already was without injured running backs Ron Cook and Al-Jay Henderson.
A former walk-on who received a scholarship in the spring, Ahmed has been a vital player on the Bulls’ special teams units. He came into the Camellia Bowl with 90 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries in his career. Ahmed’s 5-yard touchdown run gave UB a 14-6 lead before halftime. His 27th rush, and 14th in the fourth quarter, gained a first down that sealed the victory.
Snyder, in his first year starting for UB after transferring from Rutgers, became the third quarterback in team history to pass for 3,000 yards in a season. Snyder was 21-of-38 passing in the Camellia Bowl. He did his best Josh Allen impression in hurdling a defender on a field goal drive during the second half. Snyder finished the season with a 59% completion rate, 3,030 yards passing and 18 touchdowns, tying for the fifth-most in team history.
Marshall hauled in a 32-yard touchdown that put UB ahead 7-3 early in the second quarter, capping an 81-yard scoring drive after the Bulls managed just 50 yards on three possessions in the first quarter. The Louisville transfer finished the year with 64 receptions for 827 yards and 10 touchdowns, becoming the fourth receiver in UB’s FBS history to score that many in a single season. The other three (Naaman Roosevelt, Alex Neutz, Anthony Johnson) each made it to the NFL.
Shaun Dolac, the West Seneca East graduate who leads the nation in solo tackles and was an All-Mid-American Conference selection, forced a fumble that led to McNulty’s second field goal, extending UB’s lead to 20-14 in the third quarter.
Kyle Vantrease, UB’s quarterback for the past three seasons before his transfer to Georgia State, was 28 of 45 passing for 352 yards and two touchdowns in the final game of his sixth collegiate year.
UB safety Dylan Powell intercepted Vantrease early in the fourth quarter, leading to McNulty’s third field goal.
McNulty finished his career as UB’s all-time leading scorer with 310 points. He set team records with 49 field goals and 163 point-after kicks. The MAC Special Teams Player of the Year made 24 field goals this season, setting another UB record.
Quian Williams had 100 yards on five receptions. He finished the season with 61 receptions for 743 yards and five touchdowns.
UB’s band, cheerleaders and radio crew were unable to make the trip because of flight cancellations related to the blizzard that has caused at least 32 storm-related deaths in Western New York. The Bulls adjusted their travel plans to fly out on Thursday before the storm arrived.
The Bulls improved to 3-3 in bowl games since 2008. Linguist is the only UB coach to win his first bowl game. He earned a $60,000 contractual bonus for the victory. Linguist also became the first coach in UB’s FBS era to have a winning record within his first two seasons.
UB joined Appalachian State (2015-16) as the only schools to win two Camellia Bowl titles.