BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Running back Jaret Patterson has often credited Branden “Bo” Oliver with helping prepare him for the college game upon arriving at Buffalo some three years ago.
Little might Patterson realize how the astonishing numbers he’s producing in pushing the No. 24 Bulls (4-0) into the national rankings for the first time in school history have become a form of payback: They have inspired Oliver to not give up on reviving his NFL career.
“It was crazy, man,” Oliver told The Associated Press of his reaction to watching Patterson top 400 yards and score eight touchdowns in a 70-41 win over Kent State two weeks ago. “His playing has kept me motivated to play the game as well.”
Oliver spent four seasons with the NFL's Chargers following four years at Buffalo, where he set the school record with 4,049 yards rushing.
His career over the past three seasons has been derailed by a series of injuries and other setbacks. Oliver's most recent bid to resume playing by signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last spring was wiped out after the Canadian Football League season was canceled because of the pandemic.
He’s not done yet. He is still training and has held off on submitting his retirement papers.
As for Patterson, Oliver vividly recalls the first time he met the recruit from Maryland, and the two began regularly working out together.
“I could see the fire in him,” Oliver said. “There’s plenty of guys who could’ve broken my record, but not the way he’s doing it because none of them displayed the work ethic he’s showing. What everyone is seeing on the field, his preparation for the game is the reason why he's doing what he's doing."
Oliver played 41 career games to set the record. Patterson could top it in his 32nd outing on Saturday when Buffalo closes its regular season hosting Akron (1-4). Patterson is 317 yards from matching the mark.
Patterson followed a 301-yard outing in a 42-17 win at Bowling Green, with 409 yards against Kent State. It marked the second-highest total in FBS history, and just 18 shy of Samaje Perine’s single-game record for Oklahoma in 2014. His eight touchdowns also matched an FBS record.
The Bulls had to wait an extra week to play after their game at Ohio (2-1) was declared a no-contest because the Bobcats’ roster was depleted due to COVID-19. The cancellation led to Buffalo clinching the Mid-American Conference East title and a berth in the MAC championship game Dec. 18.
Akron is rebuilding in its second season under coach Tom Arth. The Zips had lost 21 straight dating to 2018 before a 31-3 victory over winless Bowling Green last weekend.
Arth laughed when asked what it’ll take to stop Patterson.
“I think everybody’s asked that question and not very many people have the answer,” he said. “It’ll take however many we’re allowed to travel, I think it’s 70 now ... to be able to slow that guy down.”
MISSING THE MARK
Buffalo coach Lance Leipold sheepishly shook his head when asked how Buffalo avoids being distracted by the buzz of awards and milestones.
“Well you can tell I didn’t worry about awards and records the last game because I wasn’t aware of them,” he said, noting how he didn’t realize how close Patterson came to setting the yards-rushing record before pulling him late in the fourth quarter.
Kevin Marks has 53 carries for 331 yards and three touchdowns for the Bulls. Patterson has 920 yards on 107 carries. His 16 TDs rushing this season are tied for third in the nation and three short of matching the school’s single-season record he set last year.
Buffalo senior offensive tackle Kayode Awosika still vividly recalls how driven he and his teammates were after a 2-10 finish in 2017.
“At the end of it, I could’ve envisioned the program taking off because we all joined together and made a decision we where going to change this program around,” he said.
The team was driven further the following year when Buffalo failed to earn a bowl invitation following a 6-6 finish. “It still motivates us every day,” he said.
HAVE SOME ZIP
Akron might be 3-8 in its last 11 meetings against Buffalo, but was able to contain Patterson and the Bulls in a 21-0 loss last year. After Marks opened the scoring on a 2-yard run, Buffalo’s two other touchdowns came on defensive fumble recoveries. In two games against Akron, Patterson has combined for 179 yards on 34 carries and a touchdown.
Arth is so focused on rebuilding the Zips he didn't realize Akron’s win last week was the 50th of his head-coaching career until being congratulated during a video call with the media. The former NFL backup QB is now 50-37 after a four-year stint at Division III John Carroll (40-8) followed by two seasons at Chattanooga (9-13).
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