Gridiron report card: Buffalo Bulls vs. Kent State Golden Flashes position breakdown
The Buffalo Bulls football team (1-4, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) opened up conference play this week when they hosted the Kent State Golden Flashes (2-4, 1-1 MAC) at UB Stadium Saturday.
Kent State overwhelmed UB with their speed and came away with the 44-20 victory. Buffalo struggled all day in the loss. After a rough non-conference start to the year the Bulls were hoping for a shot of adrenaline to their season but may have left the game with less momentum than they entered it with.
Here’s the Spectrum report card for the game.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Tyree Jackson had an interesting showing against Kent State.
He entered the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game with only 122 passing yards and no scores. His first three quarters were slow and Jackson and the Bulls were incapable of finishing drives. In the fourth, Jackson managed 128 yards plus a score through the air and on the ground and Buffalo pushed hard to catch up in a shootout final quarter, but were unable to.
Jackson’s 250 passing yards surpassed his previous season high of 178 yards. He also ran for 40 yards and completed 51 percent of his passes in the game.
Running backs: D
Buffalo has now gone three games since their running backs have combined for 100 yards.
The Bulls running backs only combined for 76 yards against Kent State. Senior running back Jordan Johnson has been in a slump since Nevada and had his third game of under 50 yards. He also had a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Sophomore Johnathan Hawkins failed to get anything going as well and only finished with 22 yards.
Both backs contributed two receptions to the passing game, including a touchdown by Hawkins.
Wide receivers and tight ends: C
The Bulls receivers struggled to create separation against a Kent State defense that utilized press coverage throughout the night.
Senior receivers Marcus McGill and Malcolm Robinson led Buffalo with four catches each. McGill had 65 yards and Robinson finished with 52. Seven other players caught a pass for the Bulls. Senior tight end Mason Schreck finished with three catches for 21 yards and did not play up to par, usually being a major target for Jackson.
Offensive line: F
Something needs to change in the Buffalo trenches.
The Bulls line was a detriment to the team on Saturday. Since the Nevada game they have failed to create any holes for the running backs. Johnson ran right into a wall of defenders on the play that he fumbled. They also weren’t allowing Jackson enough time to let plays develop and set his feet.
Freshman Tomas Jack-Kurdyla started his first game of the year at right guard as junior guard David Goldsby, who transferred to UB this summer, was transitioned back out to right tackle where he played before coming to Buffalo.
Defensive line: F
Buffalo has now allowed 340 or more rushing yard in three games this season.
The Golden Flashes finished Saturday with 341 yards on the ground. They averaged 7.6 yards per rush, the highest UB has given up all year. Junior wide receiver Nick Holley started at quarterback for Kent State and had a game high 224 rushing yards along with four rushing touchdowns.
The D-line did finish with three tackles for the loss including a 21-yard sack by senior defensive end Brandon Crawford.
Buffalo’s normally strong linebacker core had one of its worst showings of the season.
Along with the defensive line, they had no answer for Holley’s speed. The Bulls allowed him to continually get outside them and break off big runs. Holley totaled three rushes over 40 yards in the game. His pure athleticism was too much for Buffalo.
This is only the second game this season where at least one Bulls linebacker didn’t have double digit tackles.
Defensive backs: C+
UB’s secondary has yet to face many real tests this season.
Following Saturday’s game, Buffalo has given up the third fewest passing yards in the NCAA. They are also the only team in the top 50 of that list to face less than 100 passing attempts. Holley’s arm didn’t challenge Buffalo’s coverage skills much as he only attempted 13 passes, completing 7.
The secondary has shown great ability in the run game this season but poor tackling caused them to be less successful.
Special teams: C+
Sophomore kicker Adam Mitcheson went 2 for 3 on Saturday.
Mitcheson scored the first points of the game on a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter and followed it up with a 41 yarder after half. He missed a 46-yard attempt on the next drive. Sophomore punter Kyle DeWeen pinned two punts inside the 20.
Buffalo also gave up a 66-yard return to Kent State sophomore receiver Raekwon James.
For the fourth straight game the Bulls were held under three points in the first half.
Buffalo has only scored one touchdown in the first half and it came in the season opener against Albany. Flat starts have caused them to play from behind in every game. The offensive game plans have been ineffective and felt stagnant.
The defense banged its head against a brick wall all day and had no answers for Holley. Whether it was on sweeps or read options, Kent State was able to run the ball at will. The coaching staff needs to figure out mid game adjustments because they allowed even more points in the second half then in the weak first half.
Buffalo hosts the Ball State Cardinals (3-3, 0-2 MAC) at UB Stadium next Saturday. Kickoff is at 3:30 pm.
Daniel Petruccelli is a sports staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org