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BUFFALO DISAPPOINTS IN 25-POINT LOSS
The sad truth is that Nebraska—Nebraska!—was just the better team. Plus: MAC Chaos, and Gambling is Stupid
Image from Huskers.com.
So much optimism going into Saturday’s game against Nebraska. So much disappointment writing this tonight.
We saw the difference between a MAC team and a Big 10 team (albeit a mediocre squad) yesterday afternoon as the Cornhuskers more or less dominated Buffalo, 28-3, at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
There were no wide running lanes for UB’s Kevin Marks, Jr. and Buffalo’s usually-dangerous running attack. There was little time in the pocket for QB Kyle Vantrease, whose best play of the day was an 81-yard punt. There was no separation for his receivers. The Bulls’ defenders consistently seemed a step behind.
We thought we had Adrian Martinez figured out, but we saw what a dangerous weapon a four-star, four-year starter for a Power 5 program can really look like. We saw how an offensive line with real NFL prospects can just blast holes and maintain contain while allowing big plays to develop. We saw what it’s like for Buffalo to get absolutely roasted on big-time plays, like WR Samori Toure’s (pictured below) two 68-yard TDs and Martinez’s 71-yard run.
Image from Huskers.com
And it could have been worse. The Huskers (2-1) had three TDs called back on penalties, and missed three field goals.
All in all, the Bulls (1-1) were embarrassed.
"There's no moral victories,” Buffalo head coach Maurice Linguist said after the game. “We prepare and play to win and we came up short. We're very aware of the outcome of the game. What we have to do now is go back to the systematic approach that we carry with us every single week to fix what have to fix, build on the positives from the game and prepare ourselves for a very good Coastal (Carolina) team coming into Buffalo."
The loss exposed some major holes that Buffalo hid in the Week 1 Wagner blowout: a defensive line that struggled to contain Martinez or stop Nebraska’s rushing attack. A secondary that was torched by Toure and Chris Hickman for 226 yards on just five receptions. An o-line that got shoved around by a bigger, tougher Husker front. The limitations of Vantrease’s ability to hit big throws in tight windows in crucial situations.
Nebraska was literally laughing about the win afterwards.
“We were joking about it in the locker room in there,” Martinez said of his 71-yard, second quarter rush in which he dodged a potential Kadofi Wright tackle for a drive-killing loss on third down and, instead, ran from his own 25 to the Buffalo four yard line. “Maybe around the 35-yard line, I started doing the ‘Madden’ tricks where you start zig-zagging, hoping the guy loses track of you. I’ll definitely hear about it. Got caught at the 4.”
Image from Huskers.com
The Huskers also showed what worked against a crummy FCS team in Week 1 isn’t going to fly for the rest of the season.
“They gave those (coverage) looks against Wagner and, in practice, when I would get that look, I would start smelling the end zone,” Toure told The Lincoln Journal-Star. “When we lined up, I kind of knew that, if everything went right, it was going to be a touchdown.” He wasn’t wrong.
A Little Conservative? Oh, Yes.
Also disappointing: the play-calling.
In Buffalo’s first drive of the second quarter, the Bulls ran the ball on eight of nine plays—the single pass a three-yard completion to Fredonia’s own Jovanny Ruiz—picking up a total of 28 yards before punting from their own 48, leading to a touchback. Nebraska scored on the next possession, taking a 7-0 lead, set up by the explosive Martinez run.
The Bulls got the ball back, and immediately fed WR Quian Williams a seven-yard reception. Two plays later, on second and 10, Vantrease hit Williams for another eight-yard gain. Time to get creative on third and two?
Nope—instead, we had a slow-developing handoff to RB Ron Cook, Jr., who got stuffed for a one-yard loss back to the UB 45. Quickly going for the 4th-and-3 conversion, Vantrease tossed a swing pass in the right flat to Cook, who was promptly tripped up a yard short of the sticks. Even when OC Shane Montgomery got bold, he remained conservative.
Next drive: the Bulls get the ball back at their own 14 and 2:28 remaining in the first half. OK, not ideal. But here’s the series of plays:
Swing pass to Kevin Marks, loss of three yards.
Marks run for two yards.
Marks run for six yards (hooray) on 3rd-and-11.
This set up Vantrease’s 81-yard punt, which would’ve been just swell if Toure didn’t catch a 68-yard TD with 00:34 left in the half. The Montana transfer slid easily between nickel corner Aapri Washington and safety Dylan Powell for an untouched run to the end zone and a 14-0 advantage for the home team.
Conservative clock-killing by Buffalo; aggressive attacking by Nebraska. Game essentially over at the end of the first half.
The Bulls never reached the Huskers’ side of the field in the third quarter, and their last-gasp drive—down 21-3 early in the fourth—sputtered when another 3rd-and-2 running play on the Nebraska 34 went absolutely nowhere.
Down 18 with just over seven minutes remaining, the Bulls punted on 4th-and-5 deep in their own zone—because it was totally likely UB was going to get a quick stop and then roll off three scores.
Miraculously, Buffalo recovered a fluke fumble on that punt at Nebraska’s 39 with 7:02 remaining—and immediately ran the ball for two yards. Two incomplete passes and a missed 50-yard FG later, and we’re right back where we started. UB essentially clocked itself.
The pièce de résistance of UB’s conservatism came with the team down 28-3 and 2:45 remaining. Fourth-and-15 from the Nebraska 24: missed FG. Because 28-6 would’ve been more manageable.
Look, I get it: you want to go with your strengths, and UB’s superpower for the past several seasons is running the ball.
Nebraska, however, ain’t Akron, and it would’ve been nice to either try a more aggressive approach that took advantage of Ruiz, Williams, and speedy, underutilized freshman Khamron Laborn or adjust, on some level, when it was clear the running game just wasn’t going to happen (and before the team was down 18 points).
I’m not an OC, so what do I know, I guess, but it was frustrating to see the same overthrown passes and two-yard runs for 60 minutes.
At Least It’s Over.
There were stupid penalties (10 for 88 yards, including a sideline interference call on Linguist). There was the close-to-the-vest, conservative-as-an-Omaha-NRA-meeting offensive scheme. There was the overmatched defense.
And then there’s Nebraska coach Scott Frost, acting like it was all some heroic struggle. From Mitch Sherman of The Athletic:
“It’s hard to complain about a game against a good team, where you win by three scores and have (516) yards of offense,” coach Scott Frost said. “But it didn’t feel like that. I wasn’t satisfied.”
The fact is, this ranked among the five best wins for Frost at Nebraska in his four seasons. That’s an indictment, yes, of the progress the Huskers have made since 2018.
And there were plenty of reasons for frustration Saturday. The Huskers continued to make a mess on special teams. Kicker Connor Culp missed three field-goal attempts, from 32, 42 and 34 yards. Cam Taylor-Britt and his return unit bungled another punt, leading to a turnover for the third consecutive game.
Offensively, penalties negated three Nebraska touchdowns, none of which the Huskers rectified by scoring a point on the possessions. That’s hard to believe as I type the words. And I watched it happen — a 26-yard Martinez pass to Toure on fourth-and-3, wiped away by an offensive-pass-interference flag on Wyatt Liewer; a 44-yarder to Zavier Betts that came back because of a holding call on Bryce Benhart; and Logan Smothers’ pitch to Will Nixon for a 13-yard TD that officials ruled an illegal forward pass.
If all had just gone normally, the Huskers would have won by 40-something points.
Have fun against Oklahoma next week, Scott.
But hope abounds! A Bulls’ win against Coastal Carolina at home this coming Saturday, and all is forgiven and forgotten.
Game Notes: Stuff You May Like To Know
Quarterback Kyle Vantrease attempted a career-high 50 passes on the day, completing 27 and throwing for 224 yards. He completed passes to nine different receivers with his favorite target being Quian Williams, who had eight catches for 93 yards.
Kevin Marks, Jr. was the Bulls' leading rusher with 85 yards. Dylan McDuffie was a spark for the Bulls, finishing with 46 yards on seven carries.
The defense was led by linebacker James Patterson, who had 12 tackles in the game, one shy of his career high. Safety E.J. Brown had a career-best six tackles, including two tackles for loss. The Bulls had five tackles for loss in the game.
The Bulls ran 83 plays in the game, 22 more than Nebraska. UB was 11-for-22 on third down.
Vantrease's quick punt in the third quarter sailed 81 yards—the second longest punt in program history.
Huskers.com notes the two teams combined for six missed field goals—three by each team.
The Bulls will host 17th-ranked Coastal Carolina next Saturday at noon at UB Stadium.
MAC Chaos in Week 2!
The Buffalo debacle aside, what a wild day for the MAC! Consider:
Image from ndinsider.com
Toledo, 17-point underdogs, took Notre Dame down to the wire in South Bend. The Domers needed a TD catch from TE Michael “Baby Gronk” Mayer with 1:09 remaining to pull out a 32-29 win. Weird, wild stuff.
Ohio lost to freakin’ Duquesne! A week after the Bobcats sleep-walked to a 29-9 loss to Syracuse (who, in turn, lost to Rutgers today—2-0 Rutgers!), the FCS Dukes took out one of the alleged MAC East favorites, 28-26, in Athens. A missed two-point conversion with nine seconds remaining sealed the deal for Duquesne, which lost 45-3 to TCU last week. Tim Albin is two games into his Ohio coaching career and is already on the hot seat.
Kent State beat FCS VMI by 50. Given the “military institute’s” history, you can’t feel too sorry for the Keydets.
Miami (Ohio) outscored Minnesota—a team that took Ohio State 12 rounds last week—23-10 in the second half before eventually falling, 31-26.
Northern Illinois (1-1) looked like it was going to take a whipping (lassoing?) from visiting Wyoming, falling behind 42-16 in the third quarter before unleashing four straight TDs to take a 43-42 fourth quarter lead. The Cowboys scored the winning TD with less than two minutes left in the game. A loss is a loss, but dang, never count NIU out—in its two games this season, the Huskies have outscored their opponents 47-30 in the second half.
Gambling is Stupid
Well, I’m either a genius or an idiot. I’m going with idiot. I picked the winners in 10 of 12 MAC games today; against the spread (where it actually matters), I went 5-6-1 in my weekly picks, and literally lost real American money betting on Akron (WHY).
After going 4-5 last week, I’m now 9-11-1 against the MAC spread. In total, I won on the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night and hit a parlay on Coastal Carolina and Boise State on Friday, so I came into Saturday feeling like this gambling thing was pretty easy.
I took a promo bet cutting the Ohio State spread to -7 and believed—I really, really believed—Buffalo would beat Nebraska outright, Akron (+6.5) would cover against Temple, and South Alabama (-14) would smoke Bowling Green.
We know what happened to Buffalo. The Buckeyes fell apart, the Zips squandered an early lead, and, for the second week in a row, BGSU betrayed me by losing but beating the spread. I lost all three. Thanks, state of Ohio.
I’m still up—barely—on my original bankroll but my confidence is shattered. I’m feeling a little gun-shy about the NFL tomorrow (although WFT -1.5 at home against the Chargers…). But that’s my problem, not yours.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend! Go Bills!