The Spectrum season report card
The Sports Desk grades the Bulls' 2014 season
The Bulls’ season was filled with change – starting with graduating some of the most successful senior classes in school history and a mid-season coaching change. After starting the season 3-6 and having a four game losing streak, the Bulls rallied to win their final last two games to finish the season 5-6. The Spectrum grades the team’s performance throughout the 2014 season.
The quarterback position hit highs and lows this season. Junior quarterback Joe Licata completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 2,647 yards and program-record 29 touchdowns in his second full-season as the starter. He surpassed Drew Willy for the all-time passing touchdown record on Nov. 11 against Kent State. He now has 60 career touchdowns with one year of eligibility remaining.
Licata threw a career-high 11 interceptions. Two were thrown in crucial parts of the fourth quarter that ended comeback runs in two losses against Army and Eastern Michigan.
Nonetheless, Licata was a mainstay on the offense. He started every game and led an offense that scored 32.3 points per game – good enough for third in the MAC.
Running Back: A-
One of the biggest storylines coming into the season was to assess the running back position after the graduation of the all-time leading rusher in program history, Branden Oliver. The Bulls started the season with a three-back system in junior running backs Anthone Taylor and Devin Campbell and sophomore running back Jordan Johnson.
Taylor stood out from the rest after running for more than 200 yards in two straight games against Miami Ohio and Bowling Green. He finished the season ranked second in the MAC with 1,403 and 12 touchdowns – all career highs.
Taylor was a workhorse this season. He carried the ball 282 times – 175 more than Campbell and Johnson combined.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: B+
Junior wide receiver Ron Willoughby emerged as Licata’s go-to target this season after Alex Neutz graduated. Willoughby had 50 receptions for 771 yards and nine touchdowns – all career highs and all No. 1 for the team. Licata completed passes to 15 different receivers and found seven Bulls in the end zone.
Senior receiver Devon Hughes hailed in seven touchdowns including a 92-yard pass – the longest in program history. Freshman Jacob Martinez emerged for 280 yards and three touchdowns.
Offensive Line: A-
The offensive line returned all five of its starters in last season’s bowl game and proved worthy as one of the best units on the team this season. The line allowed 16 sacks all year, good enough for third in the MAC.
The unit stayed consistent throughout the season. It was able to help Licata and Taylor to career years through the air and on the ground. The team will lose three of the starters to graduation, a devastating blow to perhaps the soundest unit on the Bulls.
Pass Defense: D+
If the season ended halfway through, the secondary would have received an F. In the first five games, the unit allowed three touchdowns of 68 yards or more.
In the first three games alone, the secondary allowed 927 passing yards and eight touchdowns. Army, a run-heavy offense, completed all seven of its pass attempts for 125 yards and Baylor threw for 480 yards and five touchdowns.
They were able to keep opposing quarterbacks to less than 200 yards for the final four games of the season but these numbers do not justify the subpar season. The unit also accumulated only two interceptions – the lowest in the MAC.
Rush Defense: C
The rush defense looked lost without the presence of Khalil Mack. In the second game of the season, Army ran for 341 yards and seven touchdowns. The Buffalo ‘D’ allowed 29 touchdowns on the ground – third worst in the conference.
Senior linebacker Lee Skinner led the team with and ranked sixth in the MAC with 96 tackles. Senior safety Adam Redden led the team with 6.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. He was perhaps the brightest spot on an average performance by the unit.
Special Teams: D
Senior placekicker Patrick Clarke had a season to forget.
He went 6 of 14 (42.9 percent) with a long of 40 yards. Clarke missed his last three attempts of the season and ranked last in made field goals this season and had the lowest field goal percentage in the conference.
Campbell ranked third in the MAC with 23.3 return yards per game in perhaps the only bright spot in special teams this season.
After a 37-27 loss to Bowling Green, Jeff Quinn was fired after four-plus seasons at Buffalo. Quinn went 3-4 on the season before interim head coach Alex Wood finished the season with a 2-2 record.
Quinn’s firing was warranted after a 37-27 loss to Eastern Michigan and a 20-36 record. This ended up being Eastern Michigan’s only win of the season. The Bulls narrowly defeated FCS Duquesne Week One and only beat Miami Ohio – who finished with two MAC wins – by eight points at home.
After finishing with an 8-4 record and a trip to a bowl game last season, the Bulls had a losing season and were eliminated from bowl eligibility.
But Alex Wood deserves a lot of credit for rallying this team to finish 2-2, including taking their final game of the season after a crazy week in which the senior class was denied its final home game and opportunity to finish 6-6 because of the snow storm.
On Monday, the team announced former Wisconsin-Whitewater head coach Lance Leipold as the next head coach. He is the most successful Division-III coach in the nation, going 106-6 with five national championships in eight seasons. Next season will be his first Division I head coaching position.