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Five Things Learned: Penn State 45, Buffalo 13

Don’t be fooled by the box score. Buffalo showed it belonged on the same field as the #15 Nittany Lions for a while.

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

Under the lights at Beaver Stadium, Buffalo’s perfect season slipped in a 45-13 loss to Penn State on Saturday night. Lance Leipold’s Bulls now sit at .500, which is still the best record for any MAC team through two weeks. Despite a 32-point loss, we learned a lot about Buffalo when pitted up against the No. 15 (now No. 13) team in the country.

Buffalo’s rushing attack can beat even the best run defenses

Jaret Patterson posted 71 yards on the Nittany Lion defense, while Kevin Marks managed to get 64. Buffalo’s running backs crossed the line of scrimmage with ease nearly every play, as the Bulls’ veteran o-line often drove the Penn State defenders backward on initial blocks.

While Buffalo just finished with 13 points, the Bulls moved the ball down the field all game long, and plenty of the production came from their strong running game. Even freshman Dylan McDuffie got involved for 43 yards on six carries to contribute to the solid effort. As a team, Buffalo posted 184 rushing yards on Penn State’s defense, outrushing the Nittany Lions by over 100.

Matt Myers looked poised in front of over 100,000

The official attendance in the second-highest capacity stadium in college football stood above 104,000. That didn’t shake Buffalo freshman quarterback Matt Myers.

After a pedestrian 5-of-10 performance against Robert Morris, Myers stepped up early and showed Penn State faithful that he was ready for the moment. The quarterback was making all sorts of decent throws under pressure. Two that still resonate over 24 hours after the game finished are an under-pressure screen pass to Patterson to convert a 3rd-and-18 and a perfectly placed ball down the sideline to Antonio Nunn. Myers hit a career-high 245 yards through the air and even threw a touchdown to tight end Julien Bourassa to take a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.

Myers’ completion rate sunk in the second half and he did force a bad throw which was jumped by Penn State cornerback John Reid for a game-changing pick-six. Despite the mistake, Myers’ performance against the most challenging opponent he’ll face this year should have Buffalo fans excited about the upcoming schedule.

Buffalo’s run defense forced Penn State adjustments

Penn State’s feature back Ricky Slade didn’t see much action after Buffalo’s defense held him to three carries, eight yards, and a fumble. Buffalo stuffed Slade and the Bulls weren’t too shabby against the other Penn State runners. Journey Brown, who probably emerges from this game as Penn State’s new starter in the backfield, carried the ball just six times and gained 28 yards on the ground. The Nittany Lions didn’t frequent the run much, as the Buffalo front seven did a great job clogging the line of scrimmage.

This forced Penn State to become reliant on the air attack in the second half, and that paid off. Sean Clifford threw four touchdown passes and just six incompletions in his 279-yard performance.

Buffalo’s breakout player in 2019 will be Antonio Nunn

With Anthony Johnson, K.J. Osborn, Charlie Jones, George Rushing, and Tyler Mabry all gone from campus, somebody had to replace nearly all of Buffalo’s receiving production from last season. That somebody is junior wide receiver Antonio Nunn. Nunn missed the Robert Morris game with a leg injury and Buffalo’s passing offense looked lackadaisical at best.

But Nunn shredded Penn State’s zone coverage to haul in a career high five receptions and a career high 113 receiving yards. Nunn proved to be a solid route runner, and he’ll play the Anthony Johnson role for a team looking for veteran leadership in its receiving corps. Based on his season debut, Buffalo can expect Nunn to be a centerpiece and frequent 100-yard receiver in Leipold’s reloaded offense from last season.

Kyle Vantrease knows how to punt

The circumstances are unfortunate. Punter Evan Finegan went down hard on the grass after drawing contact from Journey Brown on a punt in the late third quarter. After immediately calling attention to medical staff, Finegan was lifted up and carted off the field. Later, it was revealed he broke his fibula and tibia.

With Finegan out, Buffalo sent in a makeshift punter — backup quarterback Kyle Vantrease. Vantrease gained punting experience in high school and that experience proved to be valuable late in the game. The quarterback’s first boot wasn’t impressive, as it sailed out of bounds for 17 yards.

But on Vantrease’s second attempt, he punted the ball perfectly, and the 34-yard kick resulted in a fair catch at the 10. It hasn’t been revealed yet who Buffalo’s punter is going forward, but the quarterback may receive his shot on special teams going forward.