Read more about UB's 41-30 loss to Northern Illinois in the sidebar.
Second half defense. Especially towards the end, when NIU moved only 33 yards over three possessions, punting twice and kicking a field goal after starting on UB's 35 yard line. We'll get to the Huskies' one big play, but in the third quarter as well, UB turned a turnover into seven points, held NIU to a field goal after a drive start on the UB 40, and got another seven points off a second turnover.
With the big play, NIU averaged 5.2 yards per play in the second half. Without it, 3.7. In the first half, that number was 6.8 yards per play.
Heck, I'll even give the defense a 'good' for holding strong for a few drives after going down 14-3. Until Licata threw back-to-back interceptions, NIU had punted on consecutive possessions. The second quarter was a nightmare, but it started with UB getting the ball at midfield down 14-3.
Second half passing game. Licata was 6-7 (plus a pass interference flag) in UB's first drive after half and kept rolling, going 16-22 the rest of the way. The offensive line killed the drive at 5:00 left with Buffalo down just eight, and a bad punt let NIU get the insurance points, but even in the two second-half drives where UB didn't score (incompletion to Weiser, no flag; interception inside of two minutes), I thought the passing game looked as good as it did all season.
Licata's TD to Lisa. That was a different type of throw than we generally see from Licata, with much less arc.
Cam Lewis' pick. The announcers said Lewis was reading slant the whole way, and he might have been, but he didn't break until the ball was thrown. A nice play from the freshman, who can really fly with the ball in his hands. At any point this season or this summer, I would have taken one possession against NIU in the fourth quarter, and Lewis' play did that.
Playcalling. Another first half on both sides of the ball that leaves us a bit confused. Licata threw 13 times to seven runs in the first quarter, and five rushes came in the first two drives, when UB went to Taylor three times in the red zone, then followed up with a run-run-pass possession. I don't have the same complaint about the second half, because at 28-3 you've got to go for it.
On defense, it was odd to see UB giving the NIU receivers such a cushion. Only two Huskies caught passes all night.
Injuries. Normally a game like this, I brush off. But UB's defense was hit hard in this one. Brandon Crawford and Boise Ross both left the game and didn't return, while Brandon Berry spent some time out. I'm more concerned about the offense when it comes to hypothetical wins over Akron and UMass, but if either are out or seriously limited, it's a big loss.
Wide Receivers on bad throws. Would like to see them compete and play the ball a little harder. Licata's had some bad luck lately on interceptions.
Run defense. Bouagnon, not Taylor, Franklin, or Greene, is the best back in the country right now, and the interceptions hurt more in the first half than his big run, but even without that 58-yarder NIU averaged 4.3 yards per rush. NIU was 6-19 on third down, but 3-4 on fourth. All nine conversions came on the ground.
Red zone. Two drives into the red zone in the first half immediate stalled, and turned into just three points. Another stalled as it crossed the 30. In the second half, UB turned their lone trip into seven points, but did most of their damage from outside the 30, turning the ball over on downs the other time they got that close.
Special teams. Aregero Turner averaged 30 yards on five kickoff returns. Adam Mitcheson left seven points on the field. Tyler Grassman's last punt went only 32 yards, letting NIU get points even after the defense managed a stop.
Cam Lewis' next snap. I don't think Lewis was moving on slant route all the way the first time, but the second time he certainly was, and got ruined by a double move. He's a true freshman, so it's not terribly surprising, but it was a disastrous swing in momentum. This tweet was composed over the course of the play:
Buffalo definitely has life on the sidelines, Huskies lose a yard on first play of the drive. Then Graham finds Golladay wide open for TD— HuskieWire (@HuskieWire) November 12, 2015
Even holding NIU to a field goal on that drive changes the game.
First half passing attack. Licata was 8-18 for 142 yards with two picks before halftime, and that's including a 4-5 (43 yards) stretch on UB's final full drive that ended in a missed field goal. Other than passes of 40 (drive end: FG) and 30 to Willoughby (drive end: missed FG), UB got nothing in the passing game, and even with them they were aggravatingly boom or bust.
Lance Leipold has all year harped on consistency, even after every win. Obviously that's still not there. It's understandable from young players thrown into game action by the new staff, but less so from upperclassmen and in coaching decisions.