Gridiron Report Card
Breaking down the seven overtime battle between Buffalo and Western Michigan
The Buffalo Bulls (3-3, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) played in one of the longest games in the history of college football on Saturday. They fell 71-68 in a game that lasted seven overtimes, tying the NCAA record and setting the MAC record for most overtimes in a game. The 139 combined points were the highest point total in an FBS game ever.
Junior quarterback Drew Anderson impresses me more and more every time he steps on the field. He absolutely dominated the secondary in this one and finished with a program and MAC record 597 yards. He also tied the MAC record and set the program record with seven touchdown passes.
But even those numbers don’t do justice to exactly how well Anderson played. Even his 90.7 QBR doesn’t paint the picture. This is a guy who threw only one pass last season. In two and a half games this season, he has been the consummate professional. He has looked extremely poised under pressure and handled himself well in all the big moments on Saturday. Even when the pocket was collapsing around him he had the composure to avoid the pressure and stand tough till he throws the ball.
Most quarterbacks, at any level, would crumble that far into extra time but Anderson just looked better and better each overtime. He delivered four touchdown passes and 123 yards during the overtime periods. And this is all with a run game that only produced 86 yards on 33 carries. He couldn’t seal the win but did plenty to earn it.
Running backs: C
This was probably one of the weakest performances from the running backs all year. Redshirt sophomore Emmanuel Reed entered the game with three straight 100+ yards performances and found the endzone in the first quarter but that was the end of the day for the running backs. Reed went to the locker room just before half. He walked unassisted and came out fully-dressed after the halftime break but never saw game action. He finished with 18 yards on six carries.
Redshirt freshman Theo Anderson carried the workload in the second half but only had 44 yards on 16 carries. Aside from a 10-yard run Theo never found room to really get the run game going. Western Michigan has a great linebacking core and the run game just didn’t have any answers for them.
Wide receivers: A+
This was miles ahead of any performance I have seen from UB receivers in my two years of covering the team. Buffalo had three different receivers finish with over 100 yards for the first time in program history. In total six receivers combined for 29 catches. Four different receivers caught a pass
Redshirt junior Anthony Johnson continues to be the leader and finished the game with 11 catches for 195 yards and two scores. Johnson was active all over the field and got involved in short passing, the long ball and even on screenplays. He makes secondaries look like they should still be playing high school ball. His athleticism is part of it but his intelligence and tenacity it what makes him special.
Sophomore KJ Osborn and senior Kamathi Holsey were the big surprises Saturday. They both had their first 100-yard games of their careers. Osborn was lights out in overtime with two of his three touchdowns coming after regulation. Holsey also had his lone touchdown of the game come on the Bulls first overtime possession.
Tight ends: C
It was disappointing to see the lack of involvement from the tight ends with how often the Bulls went to the air. The team had 35 catches in the game and tight ends only accounted for two, both from sophomore Tyler Mabry for a total of 16 yards.
They also didn’t contribute much in run blocking because no one on the team did great in run blocking. This is a let down after the Bulls were able to be successful with a lot of two tight end sets last week.
Offensive line: A
The run game was certainly a disappointment this week after rattling off three games with over 200 yards on the ground. But that said, that’s the only reason this isn't an A+.
Buffalo did so well in the pass game and pass blocking that the lack of running wasn’t an issue. The Bulls passed 61 times and didn’t allow a single sack. The Broncos only managed to even hurry the quarterback once in all that
Defensive line: B+
These guys looked great again like they have all year. Senior running back Jarvion Franklin definitely was able to do some damage for the Broncos with 176 yards and three touchdowns. The Broncos ran for 376 yards as a team but seven overtimes make that a more acceptable number. The Bulls allowed more rushing yards in a single overtime game to Army last year and five different teams had over 300 rushing yards in regulation length games last year.
Nobody stood out heavily as an individual in the front-four. But as a unit they stood-out because they never look tired in the game that just kept going. Junior defensive end Chuck Harris had the most impressive performance with 6 tackles and the lone sack in the game. Senior nose tackle Chris Ford didn't play in the game.
Khalil Hodge is just a superior athlete at the mid-major level. The junior linebacker had 18 tackles in the game, marking his third game of the year with over 15 tackles. He has now moved into second in the nation in tackles per game. He also flew out of the building when he jumped up and came down with a
Senior linebacker Jarrett Franklin had a huge play at the end of regulation. He was able to get his fingertips on a potentially game-winning kick from freshman kicker Josh Grant that sailed left of the uprights and brought the game to overtime.
Defensive backs: B
Senior safety Ryan Williamson played great football Saturday. His 15 tackles were one short of his career-high and he came in with the fourth interception of his career. The whole secondary was active in and combined for 41 tackles between six players. Junior cornerback Brandon Williams had two pass break-ups in the game.
The biggest issue was that they allowed the Broncos to complete 77 percent of their passes. Sophomore quarterback Jon Wassink finished with five touchdowns for Western Michigan. They never looked like they were getting straight up beat but it slowly added up
Special teams: A+
Junior kicker Adam Mitcheson had one of his best games ever. He missed one field goal from 51 yards but he made the kicks that mattered. His 34-yard conversion with 34 seconds left in the game is what allowed this thing to go to overtime. While it wasn’t enough because of the Broncos’ touchdown, Mitcheson also hit his field goal to open the seventh overtime that could have been extremely important.
I should mention him more often, but senior Kyle DeWeen is the best punter in the MAC. His punts always tend to roll favorably for the Bull and he has pinned teams inside the 20, five times in the last three games.
Head coach Lance Leipold and staff really had some cojones Saturday. They didn’t shy away from their opponent and their playcalling reflected it from the opening whistle. They went for the long ball on their first drive and if it wasn’t for a fumble they most likely would have scored a touchdown. Even with the turnover, they came out on the next drive with a 64-yard pass.
It was clear that Leipold and Kotelnicki did their homework on their defense and were able to exploit their weaknesses. It was also clear that they didn’t care if Anderson is supposed to be a back up because it looked like they were airing the ball out even more than with Tyree Jackson. The redshirt sophomore quarterback has now been out of action for two and a half games.
The run game suffered from the lack of the read option that Jackson would normally bring but other than that, it’s been fairly smooth sailing. The coaching staff has adjusted well and their play calling has been on point. This team is a threat in the MAC.
Final team average: B+
Daniel Petruccelli is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org