MIA: Buffalo Bulls’ Offense
Published: Sunday, September 25, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
This one meant more. It was homecoming weekend and Buffalo desperately wanted to dispel the belief that Connecticut had its number.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, not a single one of the 18,215 fans in attendance could locate the Buffalo offense.
Two mammoth UConn passes on a worn-down Buffalo defense were the difference in the ballgame, as the Huskies pulled out a 17-3 victory on Saturday night.
Buffalo (1-3, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) and UConn (2-2) took the field on a gorgeous, 70-degree homecoming evening. The Bulls played the Huskies tough through the first half, but Connecticut took over in the second half – bringing back sorrowful memories of Buffalo's losses to UConn last year and in the 2009 International Bowl.
The Buffalo offense has generally carried its squad this year while the defense has struggled, but a severe lack of offensive firepower led the Bulls to this disheartening loss – the second in a matter of two weeks.
Senior quarterback Chazz Anderson struggled under center. He threw for 193 yards on 18-of-39 passing, tossing no touchdowns and one interception.
That interception proved to be costly. In the third quarter, a dominant 11-play, 80-yard drive – which included a 45-yard pass to sophomore receiver Alex Neutz – appeared to have the Bulls headed for a 10-10 tie. But on the UConn 2-yard line, Anderson was intercepted by UConn linebacker Yawin Smallwood, who returned the pick for 28 yards.
"Quarterback play was not where we needed and there were a couple moments in this game where I feel like we had a shot," said head coach Jeff Quinn, who added that the interception took the Bulls out of rhythm.
Sophomore running back Branden Oliver, who has carried the Buffalo offense this year, struggled to get through a stout UConn defensive line as he rushed for 84 yards on 23 carries – an average of 3.7 yards per rush. Oliver was averaging 119 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry coming into the contest.
He was asked what the Huskies did to stop him that other teams haven't been able to do this year.
"They weren't doing anything special," Oliver said. "We just weren't executing our plays."
A 64-yard pass from UConn quarterback Johnny McEntee to running back Nick Williams (UConn's longest pass play this season) put the Huskies in position to score again late in the first half. McEntee completed a four-yard touchdown pass to UConn running back Mark Hinkley just two plays later to finish the drive and the opening half.
The touchdown pass was the first of McEntee's career, and it gave Connecticut momentum heading into halftime.
The Bulls looked to show some resiliency, but Smallwood's interception came on Buffalo's best drive of the second half.
The Buffalo defense continued to hold strong; the offense just couldn't get anything started.
UConn faced a crucial third-and-seven in the fourth quarter, and the Huskies went to Williams once again to seal the victory. He caught a short pass from McEntee and ran past an evidently fatigued Buffalo defense for a 49-yard touchdown.
"Those two [passes to Williams] were the difference in the game," Quinn said.
Sophomore defensive back Najja Johnson appeared to have Williams wrapped up on the 49-yard pass, but the running back slipped out of his arms.
"We were in man coverage on that play, and that was my man and I missed the tackle," Johnson said. "We talked all week about making the play when your number is called and the opportunity is there, and I had a chance and I missed it. I let my teammates down, my coaches down, and myself down."