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Our Own Vantrease is Player of the Week, Words from Coach Mo, + the State of the MAC After Week 1
We're one week in and it's already a heck of a ride.
THE LATEST FROM NORTH CAMPUS:
Our Guy, QB Kyle Vantrease, is MAC Player of the Week.
University at Buffalo quarterback Kyle Vantrease was named the Mid-American Conference East Division Offensive Player of the Week, the league announced on Monday. Vantrease finished 15-for-19 for 231 yards and tossed a touchdown in Buffalo's 69-7 season-opening win over Wagner. The senior signal-caller completed his first seven passes of the game. ...It marks the second time Vantrease has won the award. He also took home the honor last season after throwing for 353 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Miami (OH). Earlier this year, Vantrease was named to the watchlist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given annually to the top quarterback in college football.
Mo Linguist: Onto Bigger (Corn) Fields
The blowout win over FCS doormat Wagner aside, Buffalo now has a bigger challenge ahead with a road trip to play Big 10 foe Nebraska. The Cornhuskers lost, 30-22, in its Big 10 season opener at Illinois—a game in which the visitors gave away 11 points on an Illini strip-sack TD, a safety on a punt return (!) and two missed PATS—before trouncing FCS opponent Fordham at home on Saturday, 52-7 (for a fun read, check out Robin Washut’s “10 Things We Learned From Nebraska’s Win Over Fordham,” the first being “Not much”).
Some of Linguist’s UB team has played in the big-time atmosphere of Penn State (a game the Bulls lost 45-13), but most have not stood in the center of one of college football’s great coliseums as, well, not the lion.
“We showed them Memorial Stadium over there in Lincoln so they can just get their eyes on it. We showed them a video of what it looked like,” Linguist said in his Tuesday press conference. “We’re anticipating and expecting a sellout crowd of over 85,000, and with the noise and all of the things that go along with that. We have 27 new additions to our team who just really haven’t been in some of these bigger atmospheres, so we’re looking forward to this sellout crowd and all of the challenges that we have ahead of us and preparing our team throughout the week for what’s in front of them.”
Coach Linguist was coy about his game plan for the Huskers, but he did tip his cap to a few of their bigger names.
Image from @coach_frost
“The opponent is definitely a big challenge in front of us right now. A Big 10 opponent, a very physical team, and Coach (Scott) Frost (pictured above) does an outstanding job with those guys right now,” Linguist said. “They’re playing hard, and fast, and physical, so we recognize the challenges in front of us. ...Our job is to get ourselves prepared to play our best football from Week One to Week Two.”
Image from Huskers.com.
He also praised Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez (above), who’s accounted for 730 yards of total offense and five TDs in the Huskers’ first two games. Huskers.com reports “Martinez is one of only three active FBS players with 6,000 career passing yards and 1,500 career rushing yards. He also ranks third among active quarterbacks with 1,920 career rushing yards. Among FBS players with at least 20 career starts, Martinez ranks seventh with an average of 267.8 yards of total offense per game.”
Martinez has made some high-profile gaffes in his career, and has never led Nebraska to a winning season or a bowl game—but he’s not some clown, either.
“Martinez is a very explosive, dynamic player,” Linguist said. “He’s got arm talent, he can make plays with his legs, (and) I think he is the pulse and the heartbeat of that offense. A lot of their moving pieces go through him, so we definitely recognize the threat and weapon that he is, and his ability to make plays on the ground and through the air. Our job is to put our players out there in a position to be successful.”
Linguist again shrugged off any specific ploys his team would devise to freeze Martinez.
“We want to play the game the way we play the game,” he smiled, “regardless of who’s on the other side.”
The spread: Caesar’s has Buffalo +13.5. I just took it.
Stuff You Didn’t Know You Needed to Know
This will not only be Buffalo's first game vs. Nebraska, but it will be the first time the Bulls will play a game in the state of Nebraska.
The Bulls are 1-9 all time against teams from the Big Ten Conference. UB won at Rutgers in 2018 for its first Big Ten win. Buffalo did defeat Penn State in 1900 and Rutgers in 2002, but it was before the teams joined the conference.
The Bulls did not attempt a punt against Wagner, marking the first time in their FBS era (since 1999) they didn't attempt a punt in a game.
DE Taylor Riggins has 15.5 career sacks, tied for eight in program history. He is a half sack behind Keith Hanson (1994-97) for seventh place. RB Kevin Marks has scored at least one rushing touchdown in six straight games dating back to last season. He is three rushing touchdowns shy of tying Branden Oliver (2010-13) for third in school history with 33. K Alex McNulty (131) is four points shy of Mark Mozrall (1991-94) for fifth place in program history in career scoring by a kicker.
A final note from the Wagner win: UB scored on each of its first 11 possessions of the game. The Bulls were in victory formation on their 12th possession. It was the third most points ever scored by a UB team and the most ever in a season opener. Defensively, UB only allowed 97 yards of total offense, its fewest allowed since giving up only 84 yards against Hofstra on Oct. 24, 1992.
The MAC: Where We Are After Week 1
There were some surprises in the MAC this week: Buffalo’s 69-7 throttling of Wagner was not one of them. Toledo’s 49-10 dismantling of FCS Norfolk State—not really a shocker, either. The Rockets led 28-7 by halftime, had two TDs off blocked punts, and basically cruised to an easy home win at the Glass Bowl.
Eastern Michigan’s 35-15 victory over St. Francis (Pa.) was no shocker, either, as sophomore Samson Evans scored three rushing TDs as EMU racked up 221 yards on the ground. Things may be a bit tougher this week when the Eagles visit Wisconsin.
Ball State knocked off FCS Western Illinois, 31-21, in a game that was likely a bit peskier than the Cardinals anticipated—the score was tied, 14-14, early in the third quarter before Ball State reeled off 18 straight points to put the game out of reach. A win’s a win!
Also unsurprising was Bowling Green’s 38-6 loss at Tennessee, although the Falcons did manage to cover the spread, thanks in large part to a fumble by the Vols’ Marcus Pierce. Pierce coughed the ball up on the BGSU 24-yard line with 2:38 remaining and a final, spread-covering touchdown seemingly inevitable. That bad beat cost me $5; it apparently cost another fellow over $220,000.
Eighth-ranked Cincinnati made Miami (Ohio) look like a steaming bowl of Skyline chili for a 49-14 victory, covering easily and taking home the Victory Bell for the 15th consecutive season. Cincy QB Desmond Ridder did nothing to hurt his potential Heisman campaign, according to Keith Jenkins:
“On the second play from scrimmage, the Bearcats scored on an 81-yard touchdown connection between fifth-year senior quarterback Desmond Ridder and sophomore wide receiver Tyler Scott.
The deep pass was the longest completion of Ridder's career and the most telling throw of his very young season.
Ridder said he noticed from studying film on the RedHawks that they like to put one safety deep in the back end of their defense. But on that play, he noticed there were two safeties deep for Miami. That defensive alignment made an alarm go off in Ridder's head. He knew he needed to hit Scott on a deep post.
It was a perfectly thrown ball by Ridder, hitting Scott in stride. It was a throw that showed Ridder's strength and arm talent. It was a throw that showed Ridder's growth as a passer and his improvement at reading opposing defenses.
It was a throw of a first-round NFL draft pick.
Ridder finished 20-for-25 passing, which marked his second career game with an 80-plus-percent completion rate. He was 21-for-26 against Memphis on Oct. 31, 2020.”
Auburn beat Akron by 50. Not much to report here. Jack Condon’s lede at College and Magnolia.com says it all:
“The Bryan Harsin era got off to a much better start than I think even we believed despite the fact that we were beginning with Akron, a team ranked lower than there are spots in the FBS. Auburn rolled from the start, and the first team pitched a perfect game (sans one extra point) before the backups came in and did very well on their own. In the end, the 60-10 result turned out to be a much more efficient and powerful start to the season than we expected.”
On the more surprising side of the first week of MACtion:
Depending on your source (I generally check out The Action Network or Caesar’s Sports Book), Syracuse at Ohio was either a pick ‘em or the ‘Cuse were actually two-point road dogs. Well, the Bobcats decided not to show up to their own home opener on Saturday, losing 29-9 while allowing 283 rushing yards, including 183 to Syracuse’s Sean Tucker. Gross.
Central Michigan, two-TD dogs at Missouri, covered and gave their SEC hosts a tough game in a 34-24 loss. If not for the maniacal play of Mizzou LB Blaze Alldredge, who finished with 10 tackles and 3.5 sacks, this game may have been even tighter—and the Chippewas may have found their QB in the process.
No, the Central Michigan football team didn't come away with the ultimate prize in Saturday's season opener at Missouri. But the Chippewas discovered plenty about themselves, beginning with the quarterback in their 34-24 loss to the Tigers.
Sophomore Jacob Sirmon, a transfer from Washington, made his first collegiate start as the Chippewas' signal-caller and threw for 295 yards and a touchdown. Sirmon took all but one snap against the Tigers. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Sirmon completed his first seven pass attempts and 10 of his first 12. He led a touchdown drive on the Chippewas' first possession to tie the game 7-7.
Sirmon was not perfect, but he was plenty good, particularly in light of the fact that it was his first collegiate start, it was on the road, and the opponent was a Southeastern Conference team.
Sixth-ranked Texas A&M beat Kent State, 41-10, covering the spread, but the Aggies didn’t walk away from the game with their usual, Jimbo Fisher-style swagger.
“The Texas A&M Football team made sure their first game was as stressful as possible. Unfortunately, A&M couldn’t seem to separate themselves, even in a game that saw them favored by around 30 points,” wrote Gig ‘Em Gazette’s Jack Williams. “They’d reach that total, but it took a while.
“Kent State went 3-1 last year and proved that it wasn’t just a flukey season by staying competitive with the Aggies. A&M took a while to get going. Aggie fans were biting their nails down to the bone in the first two and a half quarters, as it would take that long before any real separation happened in this one. Eventually, the floodgates opened up in the third quarter, leading to a relatively deceptive final score of 41-10.
“Don’t get it twisted — this game was more of a sigh of relief than a confidence builder.”
Michigan dropped Western Michigan, 47-14. It’s not so much a surprise that the Wolverines—favored by 16.5—won, but that WMU was so ineffective offensively. I’ll say this: I put some cash on WMU two minutes before the game on a hunch after reading nothing but bad press about Jim Harbaugh’s bunch for the past six months, and the second I saw the Big House packed with absolutely insane fans in maize and blue, I knew I made a mistake.
Still, I would’ve hoped for more than 191 passing yards and one TD from sophomore WMU QB Kaleb Eleby, considered by some to be the top signal-caller in the conference.
And finally, the biggest surprise of the day: Northern Illinois, the NIU that went 0-6 last season, went into Atlanta and knocked off Georgia Tech, 22-21, on a last-second, two-point conversion that took more stones than Hadrian’s Wall.
Congratulations to NIU head coach Thomas Hammock, QB Rocky Lombardi (whom I besmirched on this very newsletter last week), Tyrice Richie’s amazing catch for the conversion, and all of the Huskies’ fans who deserved this one. Well played, gentlemen.