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Nevada Wolf Pack vs Buffalo Bulls football: Good, Bad, Ugly from 24-21 Nevada win

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Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

UB lost 24-21 in an absurdly winnable game. Did they give it away? Not quite. You see the Leipold formula in action, and two games in a row it's given UB the momentum in the second half. It depends, though, on responsible decision making throughout. A pair of breakdowns on one side of the ball early put the Bulls behind the eight ball, and four mistakes in the final 16 minutes ruined the comeback attempt.

The Good

The offense -- generally. I hear your pitchforks and have more to say below. I promise. The offense in general was strong today; 487 yards and 7-16 on third down is nothing to sneeze at. Joe Licata had one of his good-bad games, racking up 338 yards on 60.8% passing. He had 100 yards in UB's first two drives even as his wide receivers dropped a few passes in the first half. I wasn't happy to see the offense so pass-happy early, but the run game showed up in the second half. Anthone Taylor and Jordan Johnson combined for 137 yards, and Ron Willoughby and Matt Weiser for 253 receiving.

Third down offense. I mentioned 7-16 above, but that's even more impressive given how often once again UB was playing with longer down and distance situations. It's only anecdotal for now, but it seemed most of those seven were Licata passes for 7+ yards. UB was also 1-1 on fourth downs before the final drive.

The defense -- generally. Four three and outs (and another drive with only one first down) in the second half. Nevada only had 90 yards passing. A turnover would be nice - it certainly was for the Wolf Pack - but Brian Borland's crew, especially in the second half did enough to put UB in a position to win. Keep in mind that Nevada scored 20 on Arizona and 27 on A&M.

Boise Ross, Nick Gilbo, Okezie Alozie, and Brandon Berry. Ross had four pass breakups - I'm sure he'll again be leading the nation at the end of this weekend. Gilbo, Alozie, and Berry combined for 37 tackles and a pair of huge plays in a Gilbo sack and Berry TFL in the second half.

Matt Weiser. 131 yards are the most by a UB tight end in the FBS era.

Marcus McGill's fake on the two-point conversion. Think Marcus has pulled off some pump-fakes on the basketball court before? A thing of beauty.

The Bad

19,072. That's UB's smallest September crowd since 2012 against Kent State. I'm not throwing blame at either the fans or the powers that be, but given how perfect the weather was and the amount of energy UB was putting into pregame hype, that's a disappointing number. 3-1 would have been a great boost to start MAC play with a home game next week, but it's a bigger task now.

The offense in big pressure situations. Woof. You know the story by now: a Fitzpatrick-like gift of an interception at the end of the third quarter, a muffed handoff and a game-ender with Collin Lisa open late in the fourth. UB also had a number of offensive line penalties, again, and settled for a pair of field goals before and after the half, the first after having first-and-goal. Joe Licata took two sacks, both of which I thought were avoidable.

The defense, thrice. I'm more pleased by the defense than the offense, and I stand by the above that they gave UB a chance to win. But those two breakdowns on interior rushes in the first quarter and Nevada's scoring drive in the fourth were killer and featured a number of fixable mistakes. On that drive, UB allowed a conversion on 3rd and 7 and gifted Nevada a first down on a personal foul. I'd be interested on the rewatch to see who the personnel were on the two rushes.

The Ugly

Cheap shot on McGill. Just an absolutely terrible, dirty play by Nevada's #55, who Conrad tells me had a few QB pressures in the last couple drives. How the refs saw enough to flag the play and not call targeting is beyond me.

Penalties. I've kind of referenced them in spots here, but 9-90 for UB and 9-95 for Nevada. An early drive was killed by consecutive holding calls. A third and goal was killed by a flag. Kling had two 15-yarders. Anyanwu's roughing the passer on Nevada's late TD drive was maybe questionable, but you've got to keep the decision easy for the ref. Conrad tells me Dillon Guy's hold on the final series was a bad call, but that doesn't keep it from effectively ending the game.

UPDATE - by request

The Worst

Licata's first interception. In the six different places I'm keeping an eye on during a game, I missed each of the final two turnovers. But the first was bad. I dislike everything about it, starting with the play call. Anthone Taylor had run for 28 yards on three carries on the drive, had just given UB 2nd and four, and we were starting to see Nevada's front seven flag against the run. The throw was too long, too long in the air, and thrown where only Nevada's Baber could catch it.


***

Three months ago, you tell me UB is 2-2 heading into MAC play and I'd be happy. With a stronger than expected defense, and I'm even happier. I fought back against people's angst following the Penn State game, and I think the offense showed better than many people felt immediately at end game.

It's a familiar story, though, with Joe Licata throwing for plenty of yards but making a few big mistakes and the defense giving up a few big plays, and I'm certainly not too happy right now. 6-6 is definitely in reach, but the MAC looks good and the Bulls need to put a complete performance togather.