Just like past editions, the 2020 Camellia Bowl delivered a competitive game that came down to the final minutes. The Buffalo Bulls were able to pull out a 17-10 win over the Marshall Thundering Herd on a cold Christmas Day in Montgomery at the legendary Cramton Bowl. This was the first time since the 2003 Hawaii Bowl that a bowl was played on Christmas. With the win, the Bulls end the season at 6-1. The Thundering Herd close out the 2020 season with three consecutive losses after winning their first seven.
Buffalo Wins Camellia Bowl
Kevin Marks Wins Bart Starr MVP
MAC leading rusher Jaret Patterson was held out on Friday due to injury, but Kevin Marks was more than capable to carrying the load. In fact, he carried the ball a lot. On the day, Marks carried the ball 35 times for 138 yards and the game-winning score with 1:09 left in the game. The 35 attempts were the most ever in the Camellia Bowl. The previous holder was Marcus Cox from Appalachian State, who was the winner of the 2015 edition.
Buffalo Offense First Half Success
The Bulls offense lived on the Thundering Herd side of the field for the majority of the second half. 36 of the 43 plays run by Buffalo were on the Marshall half of the field, but the Bulls did not have much to show for it. In the first quarter, the Bulls offense sputtered inside the Marshall 30. On the first drive of the game Buffalo missed a 34-yard field by Alex McNulty, and on the second possession failed on a fourth and five from the Marshall 25. While the Buffalo offense was struggling to score, the defense forced two punts in the first quarter.
The second quarter opened with the Bulls finally being able to put something on the board. On a fourth and goal from the one, quarterback Kyle Vantrease ran it in to give Buffalo a 7-0 lead with 11:43 remaining in the half. Earlier in the drive that kicked off the second quarter, Vantrease connected with Jovany Ruiz for 20 yards to get the offense going. After forcing a third punt by Marshall, Buffalo added a field goal by McNulty to go up 10-0 with 5:33 left in the half. That was the first successful field goal attempt by the Bulls this season.
Up until that point it was a miserable first half for the Thundering Herd. They had gained only 17 yards off 10 plays, and the struggles that hampered them against Rice and UAB were still a problem. The offense woke up on the final drive of the half. Quarterback Grant Wells completed all four passes on the drive, including a 31-yard pass to Corey Gammage to the Buffalo three-yard line. Two plays later, Knowledge McDaniel scored on a two-yard run to make it 10-7 at halftime.
Both Teams Struggle
Most of the second half was a kicking contest between the two teams. Marshall opened the half with a 15-play, 60-yard drive that resulted in a field goal of 21 yards by Shane Ciucci. The bulk of the drive was on the ground with split carries between McDaniel and Sheldon Evans for a total of 37 yards. That was the last scoring the game saw until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
The two squads punted four times combined and had some missed opportunities. On Marshall’s second possession of the half, it had an opportunity to take the lead, but Ciucci was unable to connect on a 43-yard attempt. Next for Buffalo, the offense moved into Marshall territory and converted a third and one as the third quarter closed. On the first play of the fourth, Vantrease was intercepted at the Marshall 10 by Nazeeh Johnson. The Thundering Herd weren’t able to make anything of the turnover and had to punt.
Buffalo Takes It
With 7:17 remaining in the game, the Bulls put together the best drive of the entire contest. They went on a 13-play, 88-yard drive to started on their own 12. The result was a touchdown by Marks with 1:09 left in the game to go up 17-10. Marks had 10 yards on the drive, but the passing game is what set up the score. Vantrease and Ruiz connected three times for 22 yards, and Antonio Nunn twice for 38 yards. The first completion to Nunn went for 26 yards and set the Bulls up at the Marshall 18. It was a good overall performance by Vantrease. On the day, he went 16 for 27 and 140 yards.
Marshall got one more chance after a short kick by McNulty to the Marshall 35. They eventually moved it to the Buffalo 20, but two sacks on Wells loomed costly. The first one was on first down at the 20 when Kadofi Wright got him for a nine-yard loss with 30 seconds remaining. The second and most costly came on fourth and 11 at the 21 when Wells could not escape from Eric Black. That final sack sealed the game with three seconds remaining.
Another Close Camellia Bowl
The 2020 edition was just like all the ones before it. A close contest that came down to the very end. In the seven-year history of the bowl the combined point differential has been just 32 points. The largest margin of victory was last year’s game that saw Arkansas State win 34-26. This game was just another reminder how the Camellia Bowl is one of the best and underrated bowls on the schedule each year.
(Source: WSFA 12 News)