Gridiron Report Card
Grading the Bulls MAC opening win against Kent State
The Buffalo Bulls (3-2, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) have finally started to find their rhythm and are on a three game win streak. They won their conference opener Saturday by beating the Kent State Golden Flashes (1-4, 0-1 MAC) 27-13. Junior quarterback Drew Anderson made the first start of his career and led the Bulls to their first conference opener win in three years.
Here is The Spectrum’s position grades for the game.
Redshirt sophomore Tyree Jackson was out of the game after his injury last week against FAU. Anderson got off to a rough start with a three-and-out on the first drive and an interception on the first play of the second. But once the run game got moving, Anderson really settled in. The offense excelled in the first half and the team went into the half with 20 points.
Individually, he had two standout plays in the second half. He kept the ball on an option play and ran 64 yards. He followed that up by throwing his first career touchdown pass on the very same drive. He finished the game with a 61 percent completion rating, 218 total yards and one touchdown. He had a quarterback rating of 92.0 in the game. It wasn't the greatest performance of all time, but he did his job and won the game.
Running back: A+
Redshirt sophomore Emmanuel Reed was the reason the Bulls won this game. He ran all over Kent State for 144 yards. He had a huge 55-yard run in the first quarter that brought the offense to life. He was picking up chunks of yards every time he carried the ball, and he carried the ball a lot. He had 33 carries and averaged 4.4 yards per carry.
He also scored all three first half touchdowns for the Bulls. The team leaned on Reed heavily and he really helped take the load off Anderson in his first start. He has now ran for over 100 yards in three straight games. This was one of the best performances from a Bulls running back in a while.
Wide receiver: C+
Redshirt junior receiver Anthony Johnson continues to be the star of the receiving corps. He was the only one that had a strong showing with four catches in the game for a total of 67 yards. Three other receivers caught one ball each for a combined 23 yards. They didn't slack in run blocking, but most of the running was kept inside the hash marks.
Johnson is still huge for this offense, but the rest of the group needs to be more involved.
Tight end: A-
This was the best tight end game of the year for the Bulls. Redshirt freshman Zac Lefebvre caught his first career pass and his first career touchdown in the game. Sophomore Tyler Mabry had two catches of his own as well.
The team used a lot of two tight end sets Saturday and both guys showed why it was a good idea. They were useful in the passing game and looked great run blocking.
Offensive line: A+
This unit looks better and better every time they are on the field. The run game had over 200 yards for the third straight week. They were opening up huge gaps for Reed on Saturday and were a huge part of his success.
They have only allowed two sacks in the last three games, with both coming from FAU. They did a fantastic job of setting a pocket for Anderson and giving the inexperienced quarterback time to make decisions.
Defensive line: A
Kent State’s run game looked like a shell of what it was last year against Buffalo. Senior quarterback Nick Holley was clearly missed for the Golden Flashes as they only had 124 combined rushing yards Saturday. The Bulls’ defensive line had just as much control of the trenches as their offensive line.
The front four helped disrupt the passing game as well. Senior Demone Harris and junior Chuck Harris each had a sack in the game. The four starters combined for six quarterback hurries. They were a big part of this win.
Junior Khalil Hodge can’t be stopped. His tackles went into double digits for the fourth time this year and he finished with 11. He is ranked third in the nation in tackles. He also had a sack to add to the quarterback pressure in the game.
Junior Jordan Collier had the best game of his career. He was extremely aggressive and had a career-high nine tackles in the game. He also had three tackles-for-loss, one of which was a sack. This continues to be one of the top units on the team.
Defensive backs: C+
This wasn’t a great showing for the Bulls’ secondary. They allowed their highest passing output in two years and surrendered 320 yards in the game. Eight different Kent State players caught a ball for a total of 19 catches.
While the numbers don't look great, the big thing to note is the Bulls only surrendered one touchdown. Kent State got the secondary to over commit on a play action and burned them for a 75 yard touchdown. Sophomore receiver Trey Harrell also had six catches for 122 yards, which could be problematic against a better team.
Junior cornerback Brandon Williams had a big pick that helped solidify the win with less than five minutes in the game to redeem the unit. They don’t need to panic, but this was a down game for the quality secondary.
Special teams: C+
Junior kicker Adam Mitcheson continues to be an Achilles heel for this team. He missed three kicks Saturday, including both his field goal attempts and an extra point. One field goal was over 50 yards and can be excused as possibly a bad decision to kick. The other field goal was 25 yards and should have been made. The extra point was his second missed XP of the year and ninth of his career.
Freshman safety Kobe Green was the one redeeming part of this special teams when he blocked a Kent State punt and put the Bulls on Kent State’s eight yard line. It set up Buffalo’s third touchdown of the day.
Head coach Lance Leipold and crew have been handling their team well the past couple of weeks. They have done a great job with a next man up style philosophy. Injuries to Jackson and junior running back Johnathan Hawkins didn’t slow down the offense this week and that’s a testament to this coaching staff.
They worked the short passing to help Anderson find a rhythm and get a feel for the game. The best thing they did was see how Reed was running, give him the ball and get out of his way.
Daniel Petruccelli is the Co-Senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com