Gridiron Report Card: UB vs Northern Illinois
Grading the Bulls' close loss to Northern Illinois
The Buffalo Bulls (3-4, 1-2 Mid-American Conference) season was jeopardized Saturday as backup junior quarterback Drew Anderson suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder. True freshman Kyle Vantrease stepped in for the Bulls. The Northern Illinois Huskies’ (4-2, 2-0 MAC) top ranked defense in the MAC was too much for Vantrease and Buffalo lost 14-13. Buffalo has lost its last two games by only four total points.
Here is The Spectrum’s position grades from Saturday’s game.
Vantrease didn’t have the greatest first showing of his career but managed to go 8-of-16 for 153 yards. He also put together a drive that gave the Bulls a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Vantrease connected with both junior receiver Anthony Johnson and redshirt freshman receiver Antonio Nunn on 40-plus yard passes to get the Bulls in the red zone.
But he was sacked three times and threw an interception.
Anderson completed nine of his last 10 throws before the injury for a total of 153 yards and a touchdown to redshirt sophomore running back Emmanuel Reed.
Running backs: C+
The running backs struggled Saturday. Reed left the last game before the half and finished with 15 carries and only 37 yards. He was wide open in the end zone on a swing route and caught the pass for UB’s only touchdown of the game.
Theo Anderson finished with nine yards on five carries. The running backs combined for an average of 2.3 yards per carry.
Buffalo is 3-0 when Reed has over 100 rushing yards and will need him to get back to form. The lack of rushing threat has been apparent the last two games, making it harder for whoever lines up behind center for the Bulls.
Wide receivers and tight ends: B+
This unit had a solid day against the Huskies. Johnson faced a lot of double coverage from the best pass defense in the MAC and still came away with seven catches for 140 yards.
Nunn added his 43 yarder plus another eight-yard catch. Senior receiver Jacob Martinez was second in receptions and brought in three catches for 36 yards.
The tight ends combined for three catches for 12 yards.
Aside from Johnson, everyone else could have contributed more. Senior receiver Kamathi Holsey was coming off a career game but didn’t have a single catch Saturday.
Offensive line: B-
This was a down week for the line. The run game never got started and the line didn’t do a ton to help it. The Huskies arguably have the best defensive line in the MAC and Buffalo had trouble blocking them. The Huskies filled gaps immediately and clogged the offensive line.
Buffalo had their worst pass blocking this season. They allowed four sacks this week, while only allowing five all season entering the game. The Bulls completed some long balls in the game but the quarterbacks usually did some maneuvering around pressure to allow themselves that option.
Front seven: B
The Bulls front seven weren’t outmatched Saturday but they just couldn’t set the line. The Huskies were able to consistently break off 5-yard run after 5-yard run. But after 59 carries, Buffalo only allowed 3.9 yards per carry. UB needed to limit the quarterback running but Saturday was still an improvement from last year.
Khalil Hodge stood out, continuing to prove that he is the top linebacker in the MAC. He had his fourth performance of 17 tackles or more and finished with 19. He also had a sack.
The secondary’s performance was average for this season. They had no credited pass deflections but only allowed 224 pass yards. They have allowed less than 224 yards in three of their games this season and more than 224 in the other three.
Junior cornerback Brandon Williams had seven tackles, leading the secondary. He was involved in a few plays that caused drops from the receivers but was not credited with a breakup."
Cameron Lewis played the other corner with a cast on his right hand. Despite the broken hand, Lewis forced two fumbles from the Huskies in the game.
Special teams: D
Adam Mitcheson is a problem. His 34-yard field goal attempt could have won the game. Buffalo had very few chances to win with a third string quarterback.
His accuracy is problematic. His field goal percentage is a career low 60 percent this season. He is also 6-of-15 from over 40 yards in his career. His consistency needs to improve to give this team a chance.
The coaching staff handled another quarterback injury admirably but not as well as when Anderson came in for Tyree Jackson. The play calling was too conservative even before the injury. They ran too much in the first half even when it wasn’t producing. They needed to trust Anderson and not worry about the highly touted secondary.
Once Vantrease came in, the caution was more reasonable but as the game continued they let the restraints off and started to let him try to make throws.
The defense had a solid game plan and most of their issues came from execution and tackling rather than the plan itself.
Final team average: B-
Daniel Petruccelli is the Co-Senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org