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Five Thing Learned: Buffalo Bulls vs. Robert Morris Colonials

We learned a few things about Buffalo from its 38-10 victory over Robert Morris

Dollar General Bowl - Buffalo v Troy Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

TE Zac Lefebvre will be a big part of Buffalo’s 2019 offense

While its too early to make a statement about Buffalo’s 2019 offensive style, particularly in the passing game, we can say this after one game with certainty: Zac Lefebvre is going to be a big part of the offense.

At 6’6” and 250 pounds, Lefebvre is a big target and caught two TD pass against Robert Morris. Lefebvre showed very good athleticism for his size and could be used effectively in any number of short to intermediate passing routes.

As nice as his two TD catches were, his run blocking may have been better. Lefebvre blocked well at the point of attack on multiple successful runs.

Buffalo’s running game could be better in 2019 than it was in 2018

The Bulls could be a better rushing team in 2019 than it was in 2018 based on a offensive philosophy shift, QB Matt Myers, and the continued success of the perimeter blocking.

Last year the Bulls focused the QB’s efforts on passing so the starting QB had 55 carries for 161 yards: a 2.9 yards per carry average.

I would expect the Bulls to utilize the QB Matt Myers more in the running game, which should result in a big boost in yards and yards per carry from the QB position.

And the better Myers can run the read option and scramble, the more honest defenses will have to be against the Bulls running backs.

The Bulls offense did a nice job executing the read-option and QB Myers showed the athletic skills to be a threat on planned or improvised runs. Myers had 47 yards rushing on 4 carries, for an 11.8-yard average (including a long of 33 yards). I would expect Myers number of carries per game to climb, especially against more competitive run defenses.

One of my key questions going into the Robert Morris game was how a new WR group would run block and they blocked well on the perimeter on several plays. This is an obvious key to the success of the running game as we saw against Robert Morris.

On the 19-yard run to set up the first TD of the season, Buffalo’s WRs were able to sustain blocks. On the 33 yard read-option run by Myers, WR Marlyn Johnson made an effective block which helped spring Myers for a much longer gain. And Myers did a good job reading and reacting to the Johnson’s block.

Tempo in Two Ways

Buffalo effectively used tempo in two ways to keep Robert Morris off-balance while picking up first downs in short-yardage situations.

Buffalo used some traditional tempo, with the entire offense standing at the line and calling a play.

Buffalo also used tempo in a different way, usually in short-yardage, with great success. Buffalo huddled except its center went to the line of scrimmage and got into his stance. Then the WRs would leave the huddle and set. Then the remaining players would sprint from the huddle and quickly snap the ball. This approach was very effective as the Bulls converted multiple short-yardage plays for first downs.

Buffalo’s defense passed its first test

Many folks wondered how the Bulls would play as a defense in 2019 with the loss of several starters and Buffalo passed its first test with a solid performance.

Buffalo’s defense seemed to play with a stop-the-run-first mentality and were largely successful against a good rushing offense in Robert Morris. Overall the Bulls allowed 3.3 yards per carry on 45 attempts. The yards per carry was a good number for the Bulls defense because Robert Morris’ running game is talented, led by Alijah Jackson who finished the game with 13 carries for 85 yards.

The passing defense held its own outside of a few plays despite focusing on the run, allowing only seven completions for under 100 passing yard. The coverage also forced the Robert Morris’ QB George Martin to scramble rather than attempt a pass on several passing attempts.

With the rest of the defense doing their jobs, the safeties shined in run defense. Cory Gross Jr. led the team in tackles with seven. Joey Banks flashed in the first half on run defense, making the kind of aggressive form tackles that get a defender noticed.

We’ll learn more about Buffalo’s defense as we move forward. Next week against Penn State may show how well the Bulls can play run defense while devoting more attention to defending the pass.

Buffalo is building a team, not building a stat sheet

The Bulls used the 4th quarter to get reps for reserve players instead of using it to try to pad the stat sheet. RBs Theo Anderson and Ron Cook Jr. combined for 13 reps and 50 yards off the bench. QB Kyle Vantrease ran the offense for most of the 4th quarter though he did not attempt a pass.