KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The University at Buffalo offense was even worse than usual. The Western Michigan passing game was as good as advertised. The UB run defense played better than expected.
That was the rundown from UB’s 38-0 loss to 14th-ranked Western Michigan Saturday on a cold, snowy day at Waldo Stadium.
It was the first time UB was shut out in five years, since a 34-0 loss at Temple in 2011.
UB’s offense, which entered the game ranked 125th out of 128 teams in the nation in scoring, saw its points-per-game average fall to 16.2.
The passing game was the biggest problem. Graduate student Grant Rohach, starting for injured Tyree Jackson, hit just 12 of 22 passes for 140 yards. UB’s wide receivers managed just six catches.
“We had a couple play-action opportunities and didn’t get off coverage,” said UB coach Lance Leipold. “We had a couple other times we had guys open and misfired. Execution’s not where it should be for us to have a chance to beat a team like this.”
Western Michigan (11-0) remains on track for a Cotton Bowl appearance on New Year’s Day – if it can win its regular-season finale vs. Toledo and the Mid-American Conference title game.
UB fell to 2-9.
Rohach didn’t have enough time in the pocket and didn’t handle the pressure well. Western Michigan star edge rusher Keion Davis was too quick for UB’s offensive tackles. When he wasn’t supplying heat, Western was disrespecting UB’s ability to throw down field and harassing Rohach with a flurry of blitzes on third-down plays.
“They’re an athletic group, a really disciplined group,” Rohach said. “It’s kind of hard to catch them off guard at times. I think we had good plays dialed up. I think lack of execution in the passing game, especially on my part, is something that held us back.”
Thanks to its defense, UB was tied, 0-0, after the first quarter and down only 14-0 at halftime. That was despite the fact the offense managed just two first downs the first 28 minutes of the game.
UB’s run defense, ranked 123rd in the nation, bottled up Western Michigan’s power running game, averaging 254 yards a game and ranked 13th best in the country. Western had only 35 rushing yards at halftime. The Broncos finished with 181 rushing yards.
“I thought our defense played extremely well the first half, played their hearts out,” Leipold said. “But you could see the talent they have at the skill positions and the explosiveness at multiple spots that make it difficult for us right now to slow that down.”
“It isn’t like we drew up a new defense,” Leipold said. “It’s the same stuff we do. It comes down to executing it. I thought they came out with great energy and were very disruptive the first half.”
Eventually, Western Michigan’s passing game was too good. Quarterback Zach Terrell hit 29 of 37 passes for 445 yards and four touchdowns. Star receiver Corey Davis had 13 catches for 173 yards.
“We’re still not generating enough pass rush, which gives a guy like Terrell too much time,” Leipold said. “Shoot, there’s one time I think he got to his fifth guy. If there would have been a sixth eligible guy, he would have checked off and gone to him. That’s a problem we’ve got to address. But I don’t fault effort.”