Stampede Stats: Penn State downs Bulls after first-half thrill

Takeaways from football's Saturday loss

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The Bulls football team (1-1) quieted roughly 104,000 Penn State fans and shocked a national TV crowd, leading 10-7 after the first half of Saturday night’s game.

But the second half was just too much for the team, as the No. 15 Nittany Lions (2-0) won 45-13 to keep the Bulls caged.

Here’s what you need to know about the Bulls’ early grind and eventual loss.

What led to the loss

The Bulls’ first-half steeze was made up of a string of third-down conversions, a gritty rush reliance and quarterback Matt Myers’ hot passing game.

Myers often met with Antonio Nunn and Kevin Marks on drives, but Penn State kept the Bulls out of the end zone in the first quarter. The Bulls dazzled in the second quarter as 716 Twitter exploded with celebration. 

UB swung in a monumental drive late in the first half, with Myers’ throw to Julien Bourassa for a touchdown. A tight offensive line made these plays possible, as the Bulls whipped up 96 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown.

But the second half wasn’t it.

An early Myers’ giveaway, which led to a Penn State pick six in the third quarter, shifted the pendulum to the Lions’ way. The Bulls’ defense, despite taking in a loose ball early in the third, quickly gave the field up to the hometown team at times. Penn State often scored in less than a minute, as the Bulls gave up touchdowns and saw their upset hopes deflate.

Who showed out

Matt Myers was a social-media talking point when the team stunned fans in the first. He grinded away and offered a glimpse at the allure of last season’s record-breaking Bulls, but the pick six popped a hole in an otherwise flawless tire.

UB’s defense forced the Lions into limiting drives in the first, one which pushed the top-25 team to deal with a 3rd-and-12 and another when Chibueze Onwuka sacked Sean Clifford to keep the team from Bulls’ territory.

Rushers also made it happen. UB’s 184 rushing yards exposed flaws in the Nittany Lions’ defense. It was a bright light during a high-pressure game.

What went wrong

The second half, Penn State made necessary tweaks in its offense to prove its power. Penn State cornerback John Reid helped shift the storyline with his interception in the third to put the Nittany Lions up again. Tight end Pat Friermuth also snuck in two touchdowns with quarterback Sean Clifford as the Lions’ game plan smoothed out.

It was unavoidable, the Bulls knew they were in for a challenge. But eight penalties (78 lost yards) and Myers’ throwaway were weak points for the team.

The Bulls may be on the verge of a pivotal loss to their kick game. Evan Finegan, a punter who recently hit the Ray Guy Award watch list, left Beaver Stadium on a stretcher after a gruesome hit to the leg. Tight end Zac Lefebvre also was on the sideline with crutches during the game. Finegan received surgery for a broken fibula and tibia on Sunday.

What’s next

The Bulls will head south to Virginia and take on the Liberty Flames (0-2) after the Flames’ two losses this season against Syracuse University and Louisiana-Lafayette. Liberty went 6-6 in 2018 but the Bulls will be tough competition after the young guns proved themselves in Beaver Stadium against a ranked opponent Saturday.

*Evan Finegan's name was spelled incorrectly in a previous version of this article.

Benjamin Blanchet is the engagement editor and can be reached at benjamin.blanchet@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @BenCBlanchet.

BENJAMIN BLANCHET


 Benjamin Blanchet is a graduate student and student journalist based in Buffalo, New York. Aside from The Spectrum, Blanchet has appeared in Brooklyn’s ARTSY Magazine and New York’s RESPECT. Magazine.