Gridiron report card: UB vs Army
Grading the Bulls performance in their 21-17 loss to Army
The Buffalo Bulls (0-2) came to play against a tough Army Black Knights (2-0) team. They had the lead with four minutes left in the game but couldn’t hold on and eventually fell 21-17. They started fast and were up 17-7 in the first 20 minutes of the game. But they stalled out from there and eventually allowed two unanswered touchdowns in the fourth.
Here is The Spectrum’s performance grades by position.
Redshirt sophomore Tyree Jackson was UB’s brightest star in the game. Jackson finished 9 of 16 for 193 yards and had two touchdowns, one through the air and one on the ground. He was a major part of three big plays early, hitting two passes of 48 and 52 yards, the latter for a touchdown. He also found the end zone himself on a 75 yard draw play up the middle. Jackson’s biggest blemish was a fumble on the Bulls’ first possession of the second half. It was a long third but holding onto the ball would have at least given the Bulls a chance at three points.
Last year’s matchup with Army may have been the best game of Jackson’s career thus far. He led a fourth quarter comeback that showed how much potential he has. He started Saturday the way last year finished but couldn’t keep it going all four quarters.
Running back: F
This has and will remain the Achilles heel for the Bulls until they can establish something on the ground. Junior Johnathan Hawkins had one carry of 14 yards but had 27 yards on eight carries the rest of the game. Sophomore Emmanuel Reed made the most costly mistake of the game. He fumbled a handoff to open a drive, in which the Bulls could have gone up by three possessions. It completely shut down the Bulls momentum and the offense stopped producing after that.
Wide receivers: C+
The receivers had an average showing in West Point. Redshirt junior Anthony Johnson was the top guy with three catches for 82 yards. Though it wasn’t quite like his performance against Minnesota, he still was able to catch a deep ball early but needed to stay active later in the game. Redshirt freshman Antonio Nunn caught his second career pass for a 48-yard touchdown on a post route right down the middle of the field.
But that was Nunn’s only catch of the day and senior Kamathi Holsey and sophomore K.J. Osborn only combined for 5 catches and 63 yards. They handled themselves well enough against a good secondary but couldn’t do enough.
Tight ends: F
Buffalo didn’t have a tight end get involved in this game, so there’s nothing to judge. Tyler Mabry, sophomore tight end, only has one catch from two games, and it’s from the season opener. Redshirt freshman Zac Lefebvre has played but has yet to catch a ball. They didn’t do much for the run game either so they get a failing grade.
Offensive line: C+
The offensive line looks like it has the potential but it has yet to deliver. The run game looks like it’s trudging through mud and the line needs to open up some holes to get the ground game going. The offense has 170 rushing yards in their first two games and 75 came off one play.
They’ve shown a little more promise in pass blocking. They gave Jackson time on both his big completions. They did allow two sacks in the game but with the anemic run game, the Black Knights were able to send the pass rush heavy.
Defensive line: B-
Allowing 322 yards on the ground isn’t a great sign but when a team runs 66 times in a game, it’s not too bad of a defensive output. Army averaged 4.9 yards per carry against the Bulls, entering the game averaging 10.91 yards per rush.
The interior looks strong with the play of senior Chris Ford and junior Justin Brandon being a focal point of the defense in week one and two. Senior Demone Harris and junior Chuck Harris stepped up against Army. The whole unit had at least five tackles each and combined for two tackles-for-loss.
Senior Jarrett Franklin took the lead in this game. He finished with 12 tackles including a textbook open field tackle early in the game to set up a fourth down and completely blew up a play when he got to Army senior quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw in the back field.
Junior Khalil Hodge had double digit tackles for the second straight game and had a forced fumble though Army was able to recover it. They gave up a 52-yard rush to Bradshaw on the opening drive but once they settled in, they kept the triple option in check for a good chunk of the game.
Defensive backs: A
Army is a team that avoids throwing the ball. After not completing a pass in their season opener, the Black Knights went to the air eight times Saturday. They completed two but the secondary looked in control of the Black Knights’ receivers. Junior Cameron Lewis proved again that he is the best player in this secondary. He had a huge pass deflection that made Army punt out of their own end zone.
Special teams: B-
Junior kicker Adam Mitcheson made all three of his kicks, an improvement from last week. Compared to last year’s game winner, it was a down game for him but consistency is big right now for the Bulls kicking game.
The kickoff unit allowed a big 46-yard return after the Bulls first touchdown that almost swung the momentum back to Army. They could have done better but, overall, not a bad day at the office.
For three quarters, head coach Lance Leipold and staff looked like they were going to achieve back-to-back wins over Army. Their game plan for the first half was clear and effective. They utilized their team’s athleticism to put up big plays early and often in this one and were able to jump out to a lead. They took their foot off the gas in the second half however, and couldn’t get anything moving.
The defense eventually wore out against a consistent run and the coaches couldn’t find any way to avoid it. It wasn’t the best coached game of all-time but the coaching staff showed what this offense they’ve been trying to establish is capable of when executed properly.
Daniel Petruccelli is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com