There weren't too many surprises in this one, but even so, UB's 36-7 victory over the (now) 0-4 Norfolk State Spartans of the FCS MEAC was exactly what the doctor ordered after the Bulls struggled with each of the two extremes of college football in their last two games, both losses, against Army and Baylor.
Hours before kickoff it was apparent that Mother Nature was going to play a big role in this game, as wind gusts pushed loose trash well away from its original tailgate home. Minutes before kickoff, every flag and loose item of clothing was pointed towards the scoreboard due to the strong southerly wind that persisted through the full sixty minutes.
After last week's loss to Baylor and in the wake of the missed connection between Licata and McGill, Coach Quinn spent a long of breath on the importance of explosive plays early. After trading punts with the Spartans to open the game, Licata found Devon Hughes on a medium-distance route behind the distance, and then we all watched the senior outrun everyone to the end zone for a 92 yard touchdown. It was the longest passing TD in school history.
Happily, UB's offense kept it rolling in the first quarter, running 21 plays for 222 total yards, and enjoying a 14-7 lead thanks to another scoring pass to Hughes. Only one offensive play went for negative or no yardage in the first quarter. The offense wasn't quite as wonderful in the second, missing a field goal at the beginning of the quarter before punting twice and turning a short field into a half-ending field goal. Most of the Bulls' yards came on that first drive that started in the first quarter.
UB still went into the half with a 23-7 lead thanks to the largely excellent play of the defense. Norfolk State answered UB's opening score with a one-play drive of their own, a 62-yard touchdown pass that capitalized on man coverage. After that however, NSU gained just one first down in the first quarter - an 18 yard scramble by Ervin after Lee Skinner lost contain on the backside. And things just did. not. get. better for the Spartans in the second quarter. In 13 plays, including a kneel-down to end the half, Norfolk State had fully EIGHT go for negative or no yards, and lost five more yards to penalty. The Spartans actually lost 16 yards in the quarter.
Other than several breakdowns on special teams - Marcus McGill muffed a punt and got pinned inside the ten, and two conversion attempts went for not due to bad snaps, there wasn't a whole lot to write home about otherwise. It was pretty clear - much moreso than against Duquesne - that the Spartans weren't going to do much in the second half. In the third quarter. UB punted twice in their three drives, but used a 27-yard punt return from McGill and a pass interference call in the endzone to quickly add six more points.
UB's defense continued to hold, forcing three punts and a fumble in the third. By the end of the third quarter, Norfolk State was averaging just over 3 yards per play on 40 snaps, had punted seven times, and still had only completed a single pass - that touchdown to make it 7-7 and us all nervous.
Really, at the risk of being far too brief, this was exactly what the doctor ordered for UB, and there's not much more to say than that. Many of UB's skill players started sitting late in the third quarter, and Tony Daniel came in the fourth to lead a touchdown drive. Even Collin Michael got some time late in the fourth.
Norfolk's best drive came midway through the fourth quarter, well after many fans had headed home, or at least to their tailgates. Using a mix of runs, passes, and UB penalties to inch down the field, the drive ultimately ended in no points when Max Perisse forced a fumble on 4th and goal. Perisse had a great game, adding that forced fumble to his first career sack in the second quarter, and a TFL on NSU's final drive.
So, a win for UB, but not a whole lot of takeaways. Buffalo did win the turnover margin for the first time this season, and Joe Licata moved into fifth all-time in the UB books for passing yards and a tie for 3rd all-time for passing touchdowns. Coach Quinn wants to commit to the run, and the Bulls ran 44 times to just 29 passes to control the time of possession against their overmatched opponenets.
Next week, UB will kick off their conference action with a home game against the Miami Redhawks. I wouldn't look too much into today's game for predictions' sake, no matter how bad Miami is, but it is nice to see the Bulls get back on the winning side of the scoreboard. Go Bulls