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.”
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.
Here are four takeaways from UB’s loss to Nebraska:
Quian Williams impresses again
Following an impressive performance against Wagner in Week One, in which he tallied five catches for 96 yards, senior wide receiver Quian Williams put together another strong performance against the Cornhuskers on Saturday.
Williams hauled in eight catches for 93 yards, including a 21-yard gain to set the Bulls up in field goal position at the end of the second quarter.
Despite UB’s lack of point production against Nebraska, the Eastern Michigan transfer emerged as a reliable pass-catcher for senior quarterback Kyle Vantrease. Even against a formidable Big Ten secondary, Williams was able to find open zones in the defense early and often.
Williams has yet to find the end zone in his first two games, but he has provided UB’s run-heavy offense with a much-needed boost through the air. Williams was a go-to target whenever the Bulls needed a first down and is developing into UB’s top receiving option.
He proved the moment wasn’t too big for him despite the raucous atmosphere at Memorial Stadium.
Big plays gashed UB’s defense
Despite surrendering 28 points, the Bulls’ defense didn’t look terrible against Nebraska.
The defense kept UB’s dormant offense in the game during the first half, as they kept the Cornhuskers off the board on their first two drives.
But right when it seemed UB had UNL under wraps, junior quarterback Adrian Martinez unleashed a gut punch to the defense.
The first came on a third-and-five in the second quarter. UB’s secondary had every Cornhusker receiver guarded and even sent a blitzing linebacker to contain Martinez, but the elusive quarterback evaded the pass rush and exploded for a 71-yard scramble to set the Huskers up for a two-yard rushing touchdown.
Martinez also torched the Bulls’ secondary with two 68-yard touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Samori Toure.
UB’s defense put up a valiant fight against a talented Nebraska offense, but the Bulls’ inability to prevent chunk plays cost them in Lincoln.
Alex McNulty struggles on the big stage
Football fans everywhere know that college kickers generally can’t be trusted.
The Bulls trusted junior kicker Alex McNulty with a field goal opportunity four times Saturday afternoon, but the Caledonia, NY native missed three of his attempts.
McNulty missed a 52-yarder, a 50-yarder and a 42-yarder but did convert on a 45-yard attempt.
Considering the Bulls’ offense never reached the end zone against the Cornhuskers, McNulty’s performance was indicative of the UB scoring attack as a whole.
McNulty was an All-MAC third-team selection despite going one-for-four on field goal attempts in 2020, so UB will need him to convert at a higher rate in order to win close games throughout the season.
Penalties hinder UB’s offensive effort
Discipline was a serious issue for the Bulls against the Cornhuskers.
The Bulls committed 10 penalties for 88 yards, with two sticking out above the rest.
The first was a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against junior running back Dylan McDuffie in the third quarter.
After a six-play drive that saw UB reach the Nebraska 23 yard line, the penalty pushed UB to the 38. The Bulls were ultimately forced to attempt a 45-yard field goal after their best drive of the day was halted by the foul.
Just one drive later, UB was flagged for sideline interference after Linguist and his staff vehemently contested a late hit on Vantrease that wasn’t called a penalty.
While it was a passionate attempt to protect his quarterback, Linguist’s loss of composure pushed UB back to its own 11 yard line and the Bulls were forced to punt later in the drive.
Ten penalties are 10 too many to beat a team of Nebraska’s caliber. The Bulls must emphasize discipline and cut down on their penalties to not take themselves out of games in the future.
UB must now lick its wounds and prepare for 16th-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 Saturday at noon. The game will air on ESPN2.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com 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.