Turnovers cost UB Bulls in loss to Nevada
Bulls can’t stop Nevada rushing attack, fall in final non-conference game
The Nevada running attack ran all over the Buffalo football team’s defense in the first half Saturday and there was nothing the Bulls could do to stop it.
Between a 91-yard run by the Wolf Pack’s James Butler and a 55-yard touchdown run by Don Jackson, it seemed like the game could be decided by halftime.
Still, the Bulls kept themselves within two scores and were on the Nevada 47-yard line in the final two minutes with a chance to steal a victory. But ultimately, the sloppy play and turnovers that plagued the team throughout the afternoon cost the Bulls in the end – as senior quarterback Joe Licata threw an interception that gave Nevada (2-2) a 24-21 victory at UB Stadium on Saturday.
Head coach Lance Leipold had one word to describe the loss.
“Turnovers,” Leipold said. “Ultimately, turnovers and bad penalties put us into that position. We put ourselves into tough positions for us to overcome. Long drives on third and fourth down … we had momentum swing back our way, but we couldn’t put it together.”
The turnovers and penalties were the difference in the Bulls’ (2-2) loss. Buffalo turned the ball over three times – including on its last two drives of the game – and finished with nine penalties for 90 yards, which halted momentum on several drives.
Licata threw for 338 yards and two touchdown passes, but also two interceptions – one that killed a drive late in the third quarter and the other that clinched a win for Nevada
Licata leaned on two players: seniors Matt Weiser and Ron Willoughby. Both Willoughby and Weiser finished with 10 receptions and more than 100 yards receiving. Willoughby, a wide receiver, had with 122 receiving yards, while Weiser had the best day for a Buffalo tight end in the program’s D-I history with 131 receiving yards. He also had a 41-yard touchdown that put Buffalo up 7-0 in the first quarter.
“It was a simple stick play,” Weiser said of his touchdown grab. “The defender fell off and I kept running. Good look on our offensive line for keeping Joe [Licata] clean to make the throw.”
Buffalo running backs Anthone Taylor and Jordan Johnson combined for 147 total yards on the ground, but neither found the end zone. Taylor had 68 yards on 16 carries despite Nevada’s defensive line that constantly found its way into the backfield.
Johnson had another solid performance with 79 yards on 13 carries and a career-high 37-yard run.
The Bulls offense was great with 487 total yards. But the turnovers cost them.
A fumbled handoff between Licata and Johnson with the Bulls on the Nevada 44-yard line late in the fourth quarter ended a chance for Buffalo to tie or take the lead.
“I was just trying to do to much on that play,” Johnson said. “Just trying to do too much at the wrong time with the game on the line … you have to remember your training and do what you got to do.”
Buffalo’s first half defensive mistakes also cost the team in the end.
After a stout performance against Florida Atlantic, the Bulls’ defense allowed 379 yards Saturday, including 289 yards on the ground. Both Butler and Jackson had more than 100 yards and scored. Jackson’s second touchdown – a 10-yard run – put Nevada up 24-13 with 10 minutes left in the game.
Nevada’s 7.4 yards per carry was the highest Buffalo has allowed this season. It was also the third time the Bulls allowed a team to eclipse 4 yards per carry this season.
The Bulls’ defense recovered in the second half, as it held Nevada to just 99 total yards. The line-backing trio of seniors Nick Gilbo and Okezie Alozie and junior Brandon Berry had 37 total tackles and anchored a Bulls defense that made numerous key stops late in the fourth quarter.
“In the second half, I just had to play slower,” Gilbo said. “We knew they were going to run the ball, we should’ve been in position, we should’ve been gap sound in those two plays. We weren’t and they gashed us.”
But the Bulls couldn’t get to Nevada quarterback Tyler Stewart. After a four-sack performance last week, the Bulls had just one sack and four tackles for losses. Nevada’s offensive line did a good job of opening up holes for its running backs and kept Stewart upright.
With the loss to Nevada, the Bulls fell to 2-2 with Mid-American Conference play starting next week against Bowling Green (2-2).
When asked about the team’s record and if he found it to be acceptable, Leipold responded with an emphatic “no.” Weiser, however, said the team will be ready and is excited for conference play.
“We’ve shown that we can do it,” Weiser said. “We’re excited for Bowling Green. Offensively, we’ve shown the ability for multiple players to get to the end zone and defensively we’ve made plays on the ball and stopped opponents. Our mindset is always, ‘on to the next one.”
The Bulls will remain home next week to host Bowling Green at UB Stadium in the first week of MAC play on Saturday, Oct. 3. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.