Christmas Magic Brings Former MAC Foes Together in Montgomery

For the first time since the early-2000s, there will be college football on Christmas, as Montgomery continues its strong Christmas Day football lineage with this year’s Camellia Bowl. For many years, the city hosted the Blue-Gray Football Classic, an all-star game showcasing the best stars from small-schools and non-bowling schools. This year’s game is a star-studded affair in its own right, with two schools that have history with one another.

#MACtion In Montgomery

Younger fans may not remember Marshall’s successful run in the MAC from 1997 to 2004, before they left for their current home, Conference USA, in 2005. One of their divisional foes, were the then-hapless Buffalo Bulls. When the two were in the same conference from 1999-2004, their programs went in opposite directions.

In those six seasons, Buffalo went 9-59 with three 11-loss seasons, while the Thundering Herd went 57-19 with a 13-0 season in 1999, two more 11-win seasons, and five bowl appearances. The series between the two reflected their differences as well. Marshall went 6-0 against the Bulls, winning by an average margin of 47-14. The closest game was 2003’s 26-16 win for the Thundering Herd, a game in which they only held a 19-16 lead in the third quarter.

Buffalo has lost eight straight in the series, dating back to November 21, 1959, their only win in the series. Here comes your obligatory back to 1959 section:

The Stars Come Out at the Cramton Bowl

The pre-Christmas bowls are usually overlooked, but this one has the potential to be one of the best bowls of the bowl season. All eyes will be on Jaret Patterson, who eclipsed 1000 yards in five games, and hopes to be Buffalo’s first Heisman finalist. However, there are other quality backs on both sides, such as his backfield-mate Kevin Marks Jr., who ran for 603 in six games.

For the Herd, Brenden Knox leads the way with 887 yards in 9 games including four 100-yard performances. The quarterbacks are not to be overlooked though, as Freshman All-America candidate Grant Wells threw for 1977 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Herd. For the Bulls, Kyle Van Trease threw for 1186 yards and made few mistakes with a 7-2 TD-to-INT ratio.

The cliche “unstoppable force meets the immovable object” applies here, as Buffalo averaged 47 points per game, topping 40 points all but once, with a 70-point showing against Kent State. Marshall had one of the elite defenses in FBS, allowing only 13 points per game, best in the nation, with defensive lineman Darius Hodge leading the way with 6.5 sacks. The Herd’s defense were also third in yards allowed per game and second in rushing yards allowed per game

Both teams found their way into the AP Poll, with Marshall peaking at #15 and Buffalo making their first appearance ever at #24. However, late season slides soured what were signature years for both schools. A win on Christmas Day could go a long ways toward building momentum for the next season.

Every year the Camellia Bowl exceeds expectations with every game in its six-year history has been decided by a score. There have been great moments such as Tyler Bass’s game-winning field goal in 2018, Zach Matics’ game-winning kick in 2015, and Blake Anderson winning the year of his wife’s tragic death. With the seasons that Buffalo and Marshall have had, it looks like the trend of great football in the Cramton Bowl will continue, even in 2020.

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