Buffalo (0-1) vs. Nevada (1-1)
The Bulls are headed to Reno, Nevada. It's known as the Biggest Little City in the World for its casinos, entertainment and recreation. But it's also famous for being part of the Gold Rush. That seems fitting because the Bulls have a big golden nugget of their own, and all UB fans are in a rush to see him possibly make his first college start. Quarterback Tyree Jackson even sports golden-tipped hair. The redshirt freshman's debut against Albany was everything fans expected: big arm, poise in the pocket, physical running style. But it also featured some of the learning moments that everyone should expect from a young quarterback. Maybe later this season, Jackson will go out of bounds at the 1 yard line instead of leaping for the end zone, and then fumbling. I don't blame him for trying to make a play to help his team win. You want that from your quarterback. But learning from those (and other) mistakes will be part of Jackson's season moving forward. His talent is impressive, and soon enough that talent will shine even more.
Bullseye on: Buffalo Offense
Jackson ran for 60 yards, many on called QB runs. That's such a new part of the Bulls offense, it took a little while to get used to it. But it's a big part of college football, and now UB can join the crowd. Tyree's size will also be a factor, as he has already shown he can carry tacklers when he's not running them over….We also saw another popular offensive concept make it's Bulls debut.
Offensive Coordinator Andy Kotelnicki called a few jet sweep plays. Most of them utilized running back Johnathan Hawkins, who was on the field at the same time as Jordan Johnson….Johnson was effective against Albany, running for 114 yards. That's the fourth 100 yard game of his career…Jordan was effective last year against Nevada, running for 79 yards and averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
Speaking of effective against Nevada, in 2015 tight end Matt Weiser had 10 catches for 132 yards and a TD. That has new starter Mason Schreck excited. He was Jackson's most popular weapon against Albany, with five catches for 58 yards and a score. Schreck said he's in the best shape of his career, and credited new strength coach Ryan Cidzik for helping him drop his body fat to 13.9%.
Redshirt freshman receiver K.J. Osborn and redshirt freshman tight end Tyler Mabry both had their first career catches. Both also saw extensive playing time…New starting receiver Kamathi Holsey caught four passes for 42 yards. He is a big target at six-foot-four, and while none of the attempts connected, he should be a big red zone target this season.
As Lance Leipold said, the offensive line is a work in progress. While they did allow the Bulls to run for 226 yards (the most since 2014), the line struggled in pass protection and was called for four penalties…Nevada's defense graduated six starters from last year, including two defensive ends who were in NFL training camps. Their front seven features only two seniors, while starting two sophomores and a redshirt freshman.
It's hard to get a read on the Wolf Pack defense. Along with losing to Notre Dame, they gave up 383 yards rushing to FCS Cal Poly, a triple-option team…Nevada's safeties are a key to their defense. Sophomores Dameon Baber and Asauni Rufus have combined for 29 tackles. Last year against UB, in his first career start, Baber had 10 tackles and two interceptions…The Wolf Pack do not have a sack in the first two games.
Bullseye on: Buffalo Defense
While all the plays count, a look at the Bulls defensive effort against Albany shows only three plays allowed of more than 11 yards. Unfortunately for the Bulls, those plays were a 33 yard touchdown run, a 35 yard touchdown pass and the 24 yard pass that set up the touchdown. Outside of those plays, the Bulls D allowed only 146 yards on 51 plays. That's less than three yards per play.
The most impressive player on the Bulls defense was linebacker Ishmael Hargrove. In his first career start, Hargrove had eight tackles and a sack. Leipold cited Hargrove as the Bulls player who made the biggest jump from last year. Playing the spot held by Okezie Alozie last year, Hargrove is bigger but equally as athletic…Nine Bulls defensive lineman registered tackles, as the Bulls actually played ten different D-lineman…Torey Hendrick was one of those lineman who stood out. The junior college transfer who was once slated to play at Iowa, had four tackles in his Bulls debut. He was active, and showed his speed downfield.
Brandon Berry, who had 11.5 tackles for losses last year, had two TFL's against the Great Danes…Jarret Franklin started the game, his first action since missing all of 2015…The secondary will get Boise Ross back for this week's game. Tim Roberts starting debut at safety was a success, with six tackles and several hard hits.
The Wolf Pack's key player on offense is running back James Butler. Last year against the Bulls, Butler had 177 yards rushing which included a 91 yard run. Butler ran for 1,342 yards last year. He is a hard runner with breakaway speed…The backup running back is St. Francis HS grad Akeel Lynch. He's a graduate transfer from Penn State, who started against the Bulls last year in Happy Valley. But in that game, he lost his job to sensational freshman Saquon Barkley. Lynch suffered a head injury against Notre Dame and is questionable for this game.
Quarterback Tyler Stewart is in his second year as Nevada's starter. He was ineffective against UB last year, throwing for just 90 yards….Nevada has given some snaps to JC transfer QB Ty Gangi. He was in for 8 plays in garbage time against the Irish, and totaled 116 yards….Against Notre Dame, the Wolf Pack debuted a triple-option offense led by starting safety Asauni Rufus. The QB runs generated 3 yards on two carries. Rufus is a former high school option quarterback who led his California team to a state title. Nevada head coach Brian Polian indicated that the package will be used moving forward. The Bulls should be prepared because they've already been practicing against the triple-option getting ready for next week's game against Army…Nevada features a pair of big receivers in 6-4 Wyatt Demps and 6-5 Hasaan Henderson…Their veteran offensive line returns four starters from last year.
Bullseye on: New Bulls
We knew there was a lot of turnover from last year's roster. We saw that in the opener against Albany. Nine players made their first start in a UB uniform. 18 players made their Bulls debut. Remember, there are 42 new players on the roster this season. Some of those players were right in the middle of the plays that changed the game. The good thing is those UB debuts and first games are over. Hopefully, the newest members of the Blue & White can now relax and play to their talents.
Please join me, color analyst Jim Kubiak, sideline reporter Scott Wilson, game host Brad Riter and postgame host Bob Gaughan for the broadcast on the Bulls Football Network. Our pregame show starts at 8:00pm. You can hear it in Buffalo on ESPN 1520 (www.espn1520.com).