Scouting Buffalo before its matchup with Rutgers on Saturday
Buffalo enters its matchup with the Rutgers football team undefeated this season, and looks to leave Piscataway with that same moniker attached to its name.
The Bulls come into HighPoint.com Stadium with a 3-0 record and some really strong showings from key players. Facing the Scarlet Knights (1-2, 0-1) could be their biggest challenge of the season, but the momentum from their big start to the season surely will help their chances.
Jackson had probably the best game of his career last weekend, when Buffalo defeated fellow Mid-Atlantic Conference member, Eastern Michigan, at home. Jackson went 21-26 for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns — all thrown to Osborn. Osborn finished the day with 188 receiving yards to go with his three scores.
Jackson had probably the best game of his career last weekend, when Buffalo defeated fellow Mid-Atlantic Conference member, Eastern Michigan, at home. Jackson went 21-26 for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns—all thrown to Osborn. Osborn finished the day with 188 receiving yards to go with his three scores.
“Good offense, good team…they’re balanced. Quarterback is playing well, a three-year starter. He’s playing his best football,” said head coach Chris Ash, about this week’s opponent.
Nearly all of Osborn’s yards came on just two plays. Jackson found Osborn bolting down the field twice for catches of 70 and 75 yards that were both run in for scores. Osborn’s other touchdown was a smaller eight-yard catch.
The running back group also provided a viable option for yards and points. Running back Emmanuel Reed lead the Bulls in rushing yards with 68 yards on 15 attempts, while running back Kevin Marks added 60 yards of his own on 14 tries, while also putting the ball in the end zone twice.
“They run the ball, do a good job with the RPO’s, getting the ball in the hands of their two wideouts on the outside,” Ash said.
Overall, Jackson had a number of guys to look for down the field, as he connected with seven players for receptions, including six for wide receiver Anthony Johnson and three for tight end Tyler Mabry, good enough for 74 and 25 yards, respectively.
The Eagles are a familiar foe of the Knights as well, as they came into Piscataway last season and defeated Rutgers, 16-13, in what was an intense game that came down to the final seconds.
Buffalo took out Delaware State with ease in its season opener back at the beginning of the month, and then won its first road game of the season at Temple, so the Bulls have certainly gotten used to this season already and seem to be ready for a test against the Knights.
The stat sheet certainly jumps out at you when looking at Buffalo’s numbers in the early season, especially compared to those of Rutgers — especially considering the Knights have only played one Big Ten game so far.
Looking at the quarterbacks, Jackson has used his time against smaller teams well, completing 65.3 percent of his passes (64-98), which has been good for 789 yards. Sitkowski has comparably struggled, throwing 49.3 percent (33-67) for just 290 yards — albeit he missed the entire second half against Ohio State.
Additionally, the visiting offensive line has done an exceptional job protecting their quarterback, as Jackson has yet to be sacked this season — also due to his ability to continue dead plays on his feet.
“He can extend plays with his feet. That’s really not, in my opinion, what has allowed them not to have sacks. It’s really what they do in the pass game, they get rid of the ball quick,” Ash said.
The key difference here though is the touchdown-to-interception ratio. Jackson has thrown 12 touchdowns and just one interception so far, while Sitkowski has thrown just 1 touchdown and seven interceptions. That’s not the side of the ratio you want to be on.
But, the ground attack for both teams seem to be a bit more alike than the quarterback position. Marks has run for 219 yards and 4 touchdowns and Reed has added another 112 yards himself, while sophomore running back Raheem Blackshear leads Rutgers with 195 yard, a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown, while graduate student running back Jonathan Hilliman has muscled his way to 134 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns.
The Knights continue to have a problem at wide receiver again this season. Rutgers’ leading pass catcher is Blackshear with 12 receptions, and he also caught the lone passing touchdown in the Texas State game. Senior tight end Jerome Washington leads the team in yards with 85 off six receptions.
Rutgers’ actual wide receivers, like sophomore Bo Melton and freshman Eddie Lewis, have had a hard time keeping the ball in their hands. The pro-style offense brought in by offensive coordinator John McNulty has not really helped the receivers yet, because their biggest problem is securing the ball in the first place.
Osborn and Johnson lead the way for Bulls in receptions with 16 each — though Osborn is the clear first option with nearly 100 more yards (300-207) and 3 more touchdowns (5-2) than Johnson.
“They’re different. They’re both very good receivers,” Ash said. “We just gotta play with good fundamentals and stay on top and play the ball.”