RENO, Nev. – Tyree Jackson’s first career start as a college football player was forgettable.
UB’s offense went scoreless on its first seven drives in Saturday night’s 38-14 loss at Nevada.
Yet, UB coach Lance Leipold was focused on the upside of Jackson’s game after the blowout loss. On a night when the Bulls gave up 352 rushing yards, the coach wasn’t going to drop too much responsibility for the loss at the feet of his prized red-shirt freshman quarterback.
Jackson hit just 7 of 23 passes for 130 yards. He had one TD pass and no interceptions. He also ran eight times for 87 yards and was not sacked.
“He continues to get better,” Leipold said. “You see what he does in the run game. I don’t think he had the throwing day that he or we wanted. But we’ve got to keep finding the throws for him. I thought there were a couple that could have been caught. There were a couple others where we’re trying to give him safe throws right now. But we’ll continue to get more aggressive.”
Jackson looked poised throughout the game. But the Bulls’ offense could not sustain drives.
The coaches played it conservative on the first drive, running Jordan Johnson on five straight plays. He was stuffed on a third-and-2 run from the UB 39.
UB’s second drive moved 56 yards before stalling and ending with a missed 44-yard field goal try.
The third drive ended when Jackson was stopped on a fourth-and-1 keeper at the Nevada 43.
The fourth drive reached midfield before stalling.
While all that was happening, Nevada was rolling up points. By the fifth time UB got the ball, it was down, 17-0.
“We’re mad right now,” Jackson said. “It’s the second game of the season. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got to keep getting better each week. We’ve got a lot of young players. We’ve got to keep growing.”
“It’s just one or two plays, one or two missed opportunities,” Jackson said. “We moved the ball. Then it’d come to a play and it’d be one or two people, one or two things. We’re not far from where we need to be.”
UB tried to create big plays, having Jackson throw deep downfield on 5 of his first 12 attempts over the first five drives. Those were some of the “safe” throws Leipold talked about, because they were easy reads, and Jackson wasn’t putting the ball at risk of being intercepted in the middle of the field.
But none of those first five deep balls came close to completion. The receivers were well covered, and most of the throws were a tad too far.
“That’s been our thing, we never felt like we took enough shots,” Leipold said, referring to last season. “So we’re trying to take shots. I know what you’re saying. All we’re getting is long foul balls, to put it into baseball terms. But at the same time, I think some of those shots have helped our run game because people gotta honor that.”
“We’ve just got to connect and find a little more rhythm with them,” Leipold said. “Just the consistency factor. There’s times the first 30 yards we looked like a good offensive football team. Then all of a sudden it looks like a whole new set of guys went out there.”
Jackson got UB on the scoreboard late in the third quarter when he hit Jordan Johnson with a screen pass that went 57 yards for a touchdown. On the next drive, UB went 75 yards in seven plays, capped by a 12-yard Johnson run.
Graduate student Grant Rohach played the last offensive series in the fourth quarter for UB.