Gridiron report card: UB Bulls defeat Miami Ohio 29-24
The football team (4-4, 2-2 Mid-American Conference) defeated Miami Ohio (1-8, 0-5 MAC) 29-24 Thursday night to get back to .500. The Bulls will be on the road again next week to face Kent State (3-5, 2-2 MAC).
Senior quarterback Joe Licata had one of his finest performances all season, finishing with 289 yards on 22-of-29 passing with two touchdowns and an interception.
He looked poised and comfortable in the pocket and even risked the deep ball multiple times throughout the game. He also proved once more why he’s the leader of this team.
Licata’s only interception of the night resulted in a return for a touchdown, but he followed up that play with a 78-yard strike to senior wide receiver Ron Willoughby to retake the lead late in the first quarter.
Running backs: B+
Junior Jordan Johnson ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Buffalo didn’t exactly miss senior Anthone Taylor, who was limited due to an ankle injury. Johnson is known for his North-South running, but his East-West versatility was showcased as well. He ran with power and efficiency.
It was clear the short week didn’t affect him being the workhorse out of the backfield. The future of the Buffalo backfield is in good hands.
Johnson also recovered a crucial onside kick at the end of the game to secure the Buffalo victory.
Wide receivers and tight ends: B+
Nine difference receivers caught a pass for positive yardage on Thursday night, none more prolific than Willoughby’s night.
The senior caught two touchdown passes for 87 yards receiving. The two touchdowns were the only two passes he caught all night. Senior Marcus McGill continued his excelled pace with a 29-yard catch coming on one play down the right sideline.
Senior tight end Matt Weiser led the Bulls in targets and receptions. He put up 56 yards on five catches, but didn’t find the end zone. Sophomore Collin Lisa had a quiet night, but he came up in the clutch with multiple third-down conversions in the first half.
Offensive line: B+
This may have been the finest performance by this unit all season.
Buffalo only allowed one sack and kept Licata protected virtually all night. He didn’t seem hurried and had plenty of time in the pocket to make sure that big plays could transpire.
The unit did have a problem handling Miami Ohio defensive lineman JT Jones, who had two quarterback hits and 1.5 tackles for losses.
Defensive line: B
Solomon Jackson recorded the only sack for the defensive line, but it also kept a versatile running attack at bay.
The Bulls gave up 124 rushing yards, but no RedHawk ran for over 42 yards on the day. No touchdowns were recorded on the ground either in a good all-around game by an otherwise shaky unit.
Consistency is key. For Buffalo, they got a great performance from a great unit.
Seniors Okezie Alozie and Nick Gilbo and junior Brandon Berry combined for 17 tackles and all ranked in the top-4 in tackles on the day.
Alozie and Berry added a sack each while Gilbo added 1.5 tackles for losses. They helped prevent long runs from transpiring and kept quarterback Billy Bahl’s completion rate to less than 50 percent.
The secondary had problems throughout the game and it almost cost Buffalo the game.
The defensive backs were called for multiple pass interference calls, one of which was called in the end zone and set up an eventual touchdown to cut Buffalo’s deficit to just five with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter.
Junior cornerback Boise Ross backed into a receiver and was called for pass interference to set up Miami Ohio’s final touchdown of the day.
Special teams: B+
The most impressive play of the night was a simple punt that went no more than 40 yards.
In the final minute of the game, Miami Ohio sent the whole team toward punter Tyler Grassman to try and block it and return it for a touchdown Michigan State style.
But Grassman was able to swiftly grab the snap and quickly punt it away before any threat of a blocked punt came to be.
Freshman placekicker Adam Mitcheson also kicked a 46-yard field goal in the first quarter, a new career high. But an extra point was blocked at the beginning of the third quarter, which could have proved deadly for Buffalo later in the game.
Johnson’s onside kick recovery also helped Buffalo’s grade.
Head coach Lance Leipold was successful on Thursday because he didn’t have to do much.
All of his playmakers were clicking. Licata was on point, Johnson had a repeat week and the defense was making plays. Leipold’s best move was limiting his injured star in Taylor and letting Johnson get some work in. And it paid off with another career performance.
It’s good to see vintage Licata again. He finally looked comfortable and could air the ball out if needed. Leipold’s best move was the run-pass balance. Both were clicking well because Miami Ohio didn’t know what to expect.