AMHERST, N.Y. — In 30 years of coaching, Lance Leipold had never been part of an overtime game before. Adam Mitcheson had never attempted a game-ending field goal before.
Both the Buffalo coach and kicker had memorable first experiences in the Bulls 23-20 comeback victory over Army on Saturday night.
Mitcheson sprinted from one end of the field to the other after making a 33-yard field goal in overtime to secure Buffalo’s first win of the season. Afterward, Mitcheson said he’d never been in that situation before. “Not even in high school,” he said.
The Bulls scored two touchdowns in the final nine minutes of the fourth quarter to force overtime against a previously unbeaten Black Knights team that had not allowed any of its first three opponents to score in the fourth quarter.
“I’m really proud of our team,” Buffalo coach Lance Leipold said. “I think a lot of people might have counted this group out. We had our backs to the wall.”
Tyree Jackson passed for 178 yards and a touchdown and ran for 34 yards and two more touchdowns to lead the Buffalo comeback. His 1-yard touchdown plunge tied the game at 20-20 with 2:26 remaining. He also had a 12-yard run in overtime to set up Mitcheson’s kick.
“It’s awesome for him to come in as a redshirt freshman and lead us the way he did,” Buffalo tight end Mason Schreck said. “That’s why this win feels so great. Because the future is in really good hands with Tyree.”
Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for a season-high 126 yards on 22 carries and had a 5-yard touchdown run to lead an Army rushing attack that totaled 396 yards. The Black Knights’ had the nation’s No. 2 rushing offense, averaging 367 yards in its first three games.
“Yards don’t matter,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “When you get it down in the red zone, you score. . We got down there a couple times and didn’t capitalize.”
The Black Knights scored two touchdowns and one field goal in four trips to the red zone. On the fourth trip, Blake Wilson missed a 34-yard field goal attempt with three seconds left in regulation.
Wilson also missed a 43-yard field goal attempt in OT. He made field goals from 21 and 38 yards in the first half.
Army’s Blake Wilson had missed a 43-yard field goal attempt in OT and also missed a 34-yarder in the final three seconds of regulation. Army’s starting placekicker, Mitchell Howard, injured his left leg making a tackle on the opening kickoff.
“It was disappointing that we got our kicker hurt because we did such a poor job covering a kick,” Monken said.
Kamari Holsey caught a 5-yard touchdown from Jackson to cut Army’s lead to 20-13 with 8:85 remaining.
Army led 10-0 at halftime, but Bradshaw’s fumble on the first drive of the second half gave Buffalo the ball at the Army 23. That led to Jackson’s first touchdown, but Mitcheson missed the extra point.
“Football is a game of momentum and when the defense makes a big play like that, especially coming off the half, we’re excited, they’re going, our energy is high and we know we have to return the favor,” Jackson said.
Buffalo: The Bulls avoided going 0-3 for the first time since 2005 and snapped a five-game losing streak dating to last season.
Army: The Black Knights’ triple-option attack dominated for most of the game but fizzled in the fourth quarter. Turnovers also proved costly. Army did not give the ball away in any of its first three games, but had two turnovers in this game, including one that led to a Buffalo touchdown.
“You play that bad, we’re going to have trouble winning another game,” Monken said.
Buffalo cornerback Brandon Williams made his first career interception and forced a fumble that led to a touchdown. Williams started in place of the Boise Ross, who was suspended for the first half due to a targeting penalty in last week’s loss at Nevada. Ross was named to the preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award.
Army: Following their bye week, the Black Knights will travel to Duke on Oct. 8.
Buffalo: The Bulls play at Boston College on Saturday.