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Stats and Storylines: Buffalo

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Sometimes the best offense is a good defense and special teams.

NCAA Football: Buffalo at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

There is nothing wrong with a little early-season adversity for a football team. It can keep the players focused and grounded. Expectations were for the Lions to cruise to victory. Instead it was a competitive game into the second half.

It was the first time the strong Penn State defense kick-started an offense that was struggling to find consistency. It will likely not be the last time that Brent Pry’s side of the ball will be called on to spark the team.

It was a glimpse at what games later this season may look like if the team is unable to move the ball against some of the tough defenses that it will face. The defense will have to play solid and may also have to contribute to the scoring effort. The offense responded in the second half, gaining yards in chunks as the team pulled away.

First Half Stats

Cam Brown missed the first half last week but he didn’t take long to make an impact early against Buffalo. On a third down run during the second offensive series for the Bulls, Brown made a tackle short of the sticks while knocking the ball loose, then recovered the ball. It set up the first Penn State touchdown, a 28-yard pass from Sean Clifford to Jahan Dotson.

From that point it was an even game until Buffalo added a field goal with 9:42 to go until halftime. After a critical drop by KJ Hamler on what would have been a third down conversion, the Bulls took the ball all the way down the field, 97 yards, to take a 10-7 lead just a few seconds before the break.

  • Buffalo ran 38 plays in the first half to Penn State’s 19, out-gaining the Lions 188-88.
  • Garrett Taylor had 6 tackles, one being a solo to lead the Lions at the half. Cam Brown had 4 solo tackles as did Tariq Castro-Fields.
  • Penn State had just 2 tackles for loss and no sacks, which allowed Buffalo to keep the yards needed for a first down to short yardage most of the time.

Early Substitutions

  • In keeping with the ‘or’ in the offensive guard rotation, Mike Miranda made the start at right guard after C.J. Thorpe got the nod in week one. Cam Brown entered for Jesse Luketa. The rest of the starters on both sides of the ball were the same as week one. Thorpe replaced Miranda on the third series.
  • Keaton Ellis made an early appearance at cornerback, coming on the field for the third series of plays. Jaquan Brisker entered for Lamont Wade at safety. Ellis Brooks came in at middle linebacker. Keaton Ellis got beat for a 42-yard pass play that put the ball just outside the 30, but the Lions held there, holding Buffalo off the board.
  • Trent Gordon entered at cornerback and Jesse Luketa at linebacker for the fourth defensive series along with the rest of the starters.
  • PJ Mustipher and Fred Hansard mixed in the rotation with starters Robert Windsor and Antonio Shelton on the defensive line. At end Jayson Oweh and Daniel Joseph were in the rotation with Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney.

Second Half

Ricky Slade fumbled the ball away on the first possession, leaving the Lions down 3 and without the ball. It didn’t last long. On the next play, John Reid intercepted the ball and returned it for a touchdown. Buffalo was forced to punt on the ensuing drive and KJ Hamler took a punt return across midfield, after a penalty the ball was spotted at the 23.

On the next play, Clifford found Pat Freiermuth streaking down the middle for a 21-10 lead with 11:54 to play in the third quarter. It was all the scoring Penn State would need.

  • Penn State’s average scoring drive was 30 yards for the first three touchdowns. A pick-six, fumble recovery and punt return set up a struggling offense with short scoring drives and a comfortable 21-10 lead.
  • Sean Clifford set up a Noah Cain touchdown with a 58-yard run around the edge to build the lead to 15 points. Clifford showed just enough speed to get the edge and the yards, which bodes well for the future when the team needs to pick up tough first downs.
  • The Lions scored 28 points in the third quarter to take control. While the scoreboard was lopsided at the end of the game, there were moments that allowed the team to learn under fire. The halftime adjustments and conversations are much more helpful in a close game, when strategy matters. To Buffalo’s credit, it was a tight game into the third quarter.
  • Jahan Dotson scored the first two touchdowns of his career, finishing with a team-high 109 yards receiving. He got behind the defense and drew a pass interference call as well. It was nice to see more than just possession-type routes from Dotson, who showed that he has to be respected, which will help stretch the field.