After a dominant 69-7 Week One victory over FCS foe Wagner last week, UB football (1-1) found itself on the opposite side of the scoreboard against Nebraska Saturday afternoon.
The Bulls fell 28-3 in front of roughly 85,000 people in a jam-packed Memorial Stadium.
The Cornhuskers (2-1) used their hostile home-field advantage and superior roster to secure a much-needed victory over the Bulls. Still, UB head coach Maurice Linguist says he’s proud of his team’s efforts against a Big Ten opponent.
“[I’m] proud of the way our team competed,” Linguist said following the game. “There’s no moral victories, I told the team this in the locker room. We’re not fighting for moral victories. We play and prepare and plan to win, and we came up short.”
Despite being able to move the ball at times, the Bulls were stifled on offense.
Senior running back Kevin Marks rushed for 85 yards on 21 carries while junior running back Dylan McDuffie tacked on 46 yards on seven rushes. Junior running back Ron Cook Jr. added just four yards on four carries.
Playing from behind in the second half, senior quarterback Kyle Vantrease uncharacteristically threw 50 passes for the Bulls. The Stow, OH native threw for 224 yards on 27 completions but tossed a game-breaking interception to UNL sophomore linebacker Luke Reimer at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Vantrease’s interception was one of many mistakes for the Bulls, who picked up 10 penalties during the contest.
Multiple UB drives stalled out due to penalties. To make it worse, the Bulls committed a number of penalties while in scoring position.
“We’re gonna be able to go on film and see where we can improve in those situations because a football game is a game of inches, and it’s a game of situations and we have to come out on top in all those situations to be as successful and to be a championship program,” Vantrease said in the post-game press conference.
Junior quarterback Adrian Martinez — whom Linguist called the “heartbeat” of the Cornhuskers’ offense earlier in the week — shined for Nebraska. The Fresno, CA native led the Cornhuskers in both passing and rushing, throwing for 242 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 112 yards.
After a scoreless first quarter, an explosive 71-yard scamper by Martinez in the second quarter shifted the momentum of the contest. Fifth-year senior linebacker Kadafi Wright had the opportunity to sack Martinez in the backfield but couldn’t wrap up the shifty quarterback.
“They went to an empty set and we decided to pressure the empty set,” Linguist said. “It’s football, you know, we had an unblocked guy, had an opportunity to get him down and came up a little short right there. Think the call was a good call, a little bit short [of] execution, but that’s part of the game. You’re never gonna have every single play go your way, so what you have to do is just respond.”
In addition to Martinez’s strong individual effort, senior wide receiver Samori Toure torched the Bulls’ secondary for two 68-yard touchdown catches while freshman running back Gabe Ervin Jr. also punched in two touchdowns for the Cornhuskers. Right when it seemed the Bulls’ defense had Nebraska in check, the Cornhuskers ripped off a game-changing chunk play.
The Bulls put up a valiant effort — and even matched Nebraska’s physicality at the line of scrimmage — but made too many mistakes to beat a Power Five opponent of Nebraska’s caliber. While the program seems to be heading in the right direction, UB isn’t yet ready to take the next step — especially in the infancy of Linguist’s regime.
UB must now lick its wounds and prepare for 17th-ranked Coastal Carolina, who beat Kansas (ironically coached by former UB head coach Lance Leipold), 49-22, Friday night.
“All we have to do now is just go back to the process, the systematic approach that we carry with us every single week, to fix what we have to fix, build on the positives from the game and prepare ourselves for a very good Coastal [Carolina] team coming into Buffalo,” Linguist said.
The Bulls will return to Buffalo to take on the Chanticleers next Saturday at noon. The game will air on ESPN2.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @DeCicco42 on Twitter.
Anthony DeCicco is the Editor-in-Chief of The Spectrum. His words have appeared in outlets such as SLAM Magazine andSyracuse.com. In 2020, he was awarded First Prize for Sports Column Writing at the Society of Professional Journalists' Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards. In his free time, he can be found watching ‘90s Knicks games and reading NFL Mock Drafts at 3 a.m.