The UB Bulls can’t look back
Another victory for the Bulls create another peak for 2015 season
Hey, we all get things wrong.
When I walked into UB Stadium Saturday, I expected Ohio’s defense to bother and stifle the Buffalo offense in dreary weather conditions and harsh winds. I figured Ohio would have a good game defensively, allowing its offense to do just enough to come away with its sixth victory of season.
Instead, Buffalo came out and took control of the game and never looked back.
It was 60 minutes of dominance from the Bulls (3-4, 1-2 Mid-American Conference).
They looked crisp in their passing offense and fine on their passing defense. Somehow, Ohio threw for over 350 passing yards – but I couldn’t tell you a single big play from the Bobcats.
With seven games in the books, there’s been some highs and some lows for this Buffalo team. The high of an opening victory in Lance Leipold’s debut to the lows of a 51-14 drubbing by Central Michigan.
Against a good MAC team in Ohio, the Bulls experienced maybe their biggest high in two years. If you remove the Albany game, you can argue that this was the best overall performance in the Lance Leipold era. This convincing victory could change the trajectory of Buffalo’s season.
My thinking that Ohio would win this game? Buffalo’s struggles in the red zone combined with Ohio ranking second in the conference in scoring defense.
But once the whistle blew, Buffalo did all of the things I expected Ohio to do.
The Bulls held the Bobcats to just 54 rushing yards for the game. Because of Buffalo’s ability to stop the run, it allowed the coaches to focus on stopping a good, not great quarterback in Ohio’s Derrius Vick. The Ohio offense relied on its running game and when they couldn’t, they had to turn to Vick to make big plays and get sustain offensive drives.
Instead, Vick ended up with three interceptions and was subbed out late in the fourth.
You couldn’t ask for more from this Buffalo defense. It was a defensive performance that was reminiscent of the Florida Atlantic performance earlier in the season.
And that’s what the Bulls need.
They don’t have to recreate the 1985 Chicago Bears, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens or even the 2013 Buffalo Bulls. They just need to be good at one phase and that makes the difference. Today, Buffalo’s front four allowed the linebackers and secondary to make plays on the ball.
The defense shined so brightly that it outshined a pretty good offensive performance. Junior running back Jordan Johnson had an excellent performance in his first career start with Anthone Taylor out. Senior quarterback Joe Licata didn’t record a passing touchdown, but led the offense on long and productive drives.
And quiet as kept, the offensive line has done a good job of keeping Licata upright. After a couple poor performances, gaining penalty after penalty and allowing defensive lineman to walk through and force pressure on Licata, the five-man unit has improved over the last three weeks and even opened holes for Jordan in his 100-yard performance.
It continues to be “if’s” involving the Bulls because of the way they’ve been up and down throughout the season. After Florida Atlantic, I thought the front four was turning into a productive unit. Instead, they went the other way. After last week against Central Michigan, I wrote them off.
With five games remaining and still an outside chance for Buffalo to win the MAC East and make it to a bowl game, the Bulls will have to continue something close to this kind of play on the defensive side. I don’t expect four turnovers every game, but some consistency in stopping the run or the pass is a good start.
If the Bulls want to make a run, coming off a performance like this is a good start.
Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Haynes_Spectrum