MONTGOMERY, Ala .: Kevin Marks scored on a 1-yard touchdown with 1:09 left to play and Buffalo made a final defensive save to beat Marshall 17-10 at the Camellia Bowl on Friday.
Replacing the national leader in rushing yards per game, Jaret Patterson, Marks carried 35 times for 138 yards for the Bulls (6-1) against one of the best defenses in the country.
Grant Wells took Marshall (7-3), who rallied from a 10-0 deficit, to Buffalo 20 with no downtime. Kadofi Wright’s sack helped force a fourth and an 11 and Eric Black added his second sack to end the threat.
Buffalo improved to 2-3 in bowls, also beating Charlotte in the 2019 Bahamas Bowl.
The game between the nation’s top running team and the No.2 running defense has lost some of its luster even before kick-off.
Patterson, who totaled 1,072 yards and 19 touchdowns in six games, did not disguise himself after injuring his right knee in the Mid-American Conference Championship game.
Marks had 23 carries for 117 yards at halftime, although he was mostly stopped in the second half by a defense that gave up just 88.9 rushing yards per game to come.
The Thundering Herd was still holding Buffalo 155 rushing yards, half of its own average.
Marshall equalized on Shane Ciucci’s 21-yard basket with 8:48 left in the third quarter, and that’s where the score stood until Marks’ touchdown.
Like Buffalo, Marshall was not at full power. Race leader Brenden Knox, C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Tavante Beckett and starting right tackle Josh Ball have retired from the game. Beckett was one of the three missing defensive starters.
It was the first NCAA bowling game played on Christmas Day since 2003.
Marshall: The offense didn’t go anywhere at first, but the defense resisted scoring threats early to keep the game tight. Bettor Robert Lefevre helped with punters of 59 and 61 yards in the fourth quarter.
Buffalo: I pulled out two impressive discs to open the game. Alex McNulty missed a 34-yard field goal dropping to 0 of 3 this season, then the Bulls failed on a fourth down for the Marshall 25.
Marshall: Wells is coming back after winning first-year American Conference honors for leading the offensive. Most of the starting defensemen return but Beckett was one of the best passer on the program.
Buffalo: Patterson and Vantrease are just juniors, so Buffalo could pick them up for another season. But three offensive line starters and three starting receivers are seniors, as is defensive end Malcolm Koonce, a two-time All-MAC selection.
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