Third QB’s the charm: Freshman Tommy Ulatowski ends football’s season with a win

Jacob Hansen, Reporter

Already onto its second-string quarterback, Kent State’s football team was down 24-10 with just 8:32 left in the final game of the season.

Then freshman quarterback Tommy Ulatowski came in for his first collegiate start.

Ulatowski threw a seven-yard touchdown pass and the Flashes defeated Buffalo in overtime.

“He was the spark,” coach Sean Lewis said. “He generated the momentum that we needed and this game is so much about momentum and it got to a point where we needed a spark and do something different.”

Kent State won Saturday’s game 30-27 at Buffalo. The program finished the season 5-7 overall and 4-4 in the Mid-American Conference.

Ulatowski finished with 102 yards passing on six completions and one touchdown.

“There are a ton of lessons that we are going to take from this year,” Lewis said. “I’m a true believer that we win or we learn. This team, they took the lessons from the whole year and the pain that you have to endure so that it sparked and inspired changes that we can get to this moment.”

Buffalo falls to 5-6 on the season and 4-3 the MAC. The team must win its final game against Akron to be bowl eligible.

Tied up first half 

Kent State was able to bring its first drive down to the eight-yard line but the team had to settle for a field goal. Sophomore kicker Andrew Glass put KSU up 3-0 with a 24-yard kick at 10:43 in the first quarter.

After 14 plays on the next drive, Buffalo’s senior kicker Alex McNulty kicked the ball in from 47 yards to tie the game 3-3.

Senior quarterback Matt Myers scored the first touchdown off a two-yard quarterback draw. The Bulls took a 10-3 lead with 8:36 left in the game.

Freshman KSU quarterback Devin Kargman entered the game on the next drive in the second quarter. Redshirt junior Collin Schlee, who has started in 10 games this season, would not return to the game due to an unknown injury.

Junior running back Marquez Cooper scored Kent State’s first touchdown of the day on a 21-yard run. The half ended in a 10-10 tie.

Kent State had 144 yards of offense in the first half. Buffalo had 121 yards in the first half.

Slow third quarter

Myers rushed 16 yards for his second touchdown of the game to open up the second half. Buffalo went up 17-10 with 11:12 left in the third quarter. The senior QB scored again six minutes later with a one-yard touchdown run, extending his team’s lead to 24-10.

Kent State did not score in the third quarter.

Buffalo intercepted Kargman’s deflected pass at 10:51 in the fourth quarter. The Bulls took over at the KSU 23-yard line. But McNulty missed a 33-yard field goal.

Here comes Ulatowski

At 8:32 in the fourth quarter, Lewis put Ulatowski in.

The coach said “a lot of different things” brought the lineup change.

“[Kargman] couldn’t find his mark and, we couldn’t play catch the way we needed to,” Lewis said. “So we needed to make a change and kudos to Tommy, a majority of the season Tommy was operating the scout team.”

Redshirt sophomore Devontez Walker made an incredible 42-yard catch, after drawing a penalty on pass interference. This set KSU up on Buffalo’s 16-yard line.

“He is one of our best players,” Lewis said. “ You’re going to build your gameplan around your best players, and the best players that you’re building your gameplan around, they need to perform and compete at a really high level. Tez did that week in and week out.”

On KSU’s next drive, senior wide receiver Ja’Shaun Poke took a reverse run 10 yards for a touchdown. Ulatowski threw to Poke for the two-point conversion, but the pass was incomplete. KSU trailed 24-16.

Cooper scored on a two-yard touchdown run to put the team within two, 24-22, with 1:01 left in the game. Poke completed a two-point conversion pass to tie the game at 24-24.

With just 12 seconds left in the game, Kent State got the ball back on the Buffalo 49-yard line after redshirt freshman running back Mike Washington for Buffalo, fumbled the ball.

“They did a great job,” Lewis said. “It is kind of what defensive football has become in college football. You need to get key stops in critical situations, and that is what the soul collectors did.”

Comeback complete

After seven plays, McNulty scored a 30-yard field goal on Buffalo’s next drive, giving the Bulls a 27-30 lead. Junior Cole Snyder, who came in with 5:56 left in the fourth quarter, was Buffalo’s QB at this point.

On the next and final drive, Walker caught a seven-yard touchdown pass to give KSU the 30-27 victory.

“It was relentless, resilient, and true grit all the way through,” Lewis said. “Picking themselves up, going back into it and refocusing in each moment and just incredibly proud of the effort.”

Kargman was five-for-18 with 25 yards passing and an interception. Schlee had 14 yards passing and 41 yards rushing.

Cooper finished with 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Walker led the receiving score with 84 yards and a touchdown.

Snyder had 165 yards passing. Myers finished with 109 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He led the team in rushing as a quarterback.

“It is something they had shown a little bit of,” Lewis said. “They had a little extra time with not playing and built a nice package around [Myers].We had to do a good job settling down and see what was going and figure out the different fits of what was happening in the defense.”

The team hasn’t played since Nov. 9, when its game against Akron was rescheduled due to a snowstorm in Buffalo.

KSU held Buffalo to 346 yards of offense. Entering the game, Buffalo was averaging 387.9 yards a game.

Senior defensive linemen Saivon Taylor-Davis had two of Kent State’s three sacks in the game. Taylor-Davis was ninth in the MAC in sacks entering the game.

Lewis said he wants his team to remember this last game.

“No matter what you are going through, I think it is a great culmination in this evening that it sums up the season,” he said. “There have been highs and lows and in this game there were highs and lows, but the guys just kept showing up.”

Jacob Hansen is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]