Gridiron Report Card: Buffalo’s 44-7 loss to Northern Illinois
Saturday was underwhelming for the Buffalo Bulls (1-6, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) as they were thoroughly defeated by the Northern Illinois Huskies (2-6, 0-3 MAC), 44-7. The Bulls entered Saturday searching for their first conference win. They left it with their biggest defeat of the season to a team who only had one win prior to the game.
Here’s The Spectrum’s positional breakdown.
Freshman quarterback Tyree Jackson had one of his least efficient games in his young career. He tripled his interception total, throwing four picks in the game. All four picks also came in the first half. The first two did make contact with the receivers, so responsibility falls more on the receivers than Jackson but the second two were bad throws. Regardless four picks in one half is pretty difficult for any team to comeback from
Jackson did complete 61 percent of his passes for 203 yards, but the negative far outweighs the positive
Running backs: B-
The Bulls running backs have finally crossed the 100-yard mark for the first time in five games. It’s also the first time they’ve had a rushing touchdown in that span.
Senior running back Jordan Johnson finally got back on track, leading the way with 97 yards and a touchdown. His 29-yard touchdown run to the outside was one of Buffalo’s best offensive plays of the day. He did it on only 13 carries, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. Sophomore running back Johnathan Hawkins had a good day receiving with five catches for 35 yards.
Wide receivers and tight ends: F
For the third straight week, Buffalo had nine different players catch a pass. None of them had over 50 yards. The receivers were responsible for the first two Buffalo interceptions since both came on shallow cross routes. Junior receiver Kamathi Holsey and senior tight end Mason Schreck were both hit in the hands and tipped the ball in the air allowing for the Huskies defense to grab them.
The receivers were a big part of Johnson’s touchdown with Holsey pushing a cornerback about 10 yards down field before pancaking him.
Offensive line: C
The Bulls had a decent showing in the run game but regressed in pass blocking.
Since Jackson’s first start of the year, The Bulls haven’t allowed more than one sack in a game until they allowed two on Saturday. Jackson also finished with only five yards on eight carries. He had trouble getting out of the backfield on a lot of his runs. The line allowed five tackles for loss. The Bulls need to control the line of scrimmage if they hope to turn things around in the last five games of the year.
Defensive Line: F
Things have not been going well for the Buffalo defensive line.
They’ve allowed over 300 rushing yards in five out of their seven games this season. The unit seems to be wearing down. Buffalo hasn’t controlled the trenches all year and teams continue to run it down their throats. Through their seven games, they’ve faced about 54 rushes a game and since week one no team has rushed less than 45 times.
Senior defensive end Brandon Crawford was able to collect two tackles for loss.
Saturday was a prime example of why Buffalo has officially allowed over 2,000 yards rushing all season.
The linebackers are as much to blame as the defensive lineman. With only one tackle for loss in the entire unit, they struggled to get stops. Northern Illinois senior quarterback Anthony Maddie is the third quarterback to be the leading rusher against the Bulls. The linebackers have had trouble containing teams especially when they utilize read options and jet sweeps.
Sophomore linebacker Khalil Hodge finished with 11 tackles, his fifth double digit game of the year.
Defensive backs: B-
Buffalo has kept teams under 200 passing yards in six of their seven games this season, including all three MAC opponents.
Saturday was also the highest volume of passing the Bulls have faced all year and they held up decently. Maddie completed 53 percent of his passes but generally Buffalo had good coverage. Junior safety Tim Roberts had the first interception of his career, though it came on the Huskies last possession of the game. He also finished second in the game with eight tackles. Senior cornerback Boise Ross had a game-high three pass breakups.
Special Teams: F
The special team’s biggest mistake of the day was the very first play of the game. Senior receiver Aregeros Turner returned the opening kickoff of the day for 97 yards, sparking the Huskies. The Bulls didn’t do much with their own return game and sophomore kicker Adam Mitcheson made his only kick of the day, an extra point.
The Bulls returned to their flat starts this week with two interceptions on their first two drives. These mistakes were not products of play calling but they still need to work on getting their team coming out strong.
The defense also continued their trend – their inability to stop an athletic offense. The coaching staff needs to do a better job preparing their team for these read option offenses. Running quarterbacks continue to destroy Buffalo and no one appears to have any answers.
Daniel Petruccelli is a staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com