Buffalo, Nebraska’s upcoming opponent, came out strong in its week one win over Wagner.
The Bulls won 69-7 and scored the first 62 points of the game unanswered. Quarterback Kyle Vantrease was named the MAC East Division’s offensive player of the week for his performance. What stood out most, however, may have been the team’s seven rushing touchdowns.
While the coaching staff is different now, the success on the ground has clearly carried over. Last season, Buffalo averaged 4.6 rushing touchdowns a game on 6.7 yards per carry.
That run game is something the Huskers will look to slow down.
“Skill position wise, their back is elite. They’ll be a good test for us,” defensive lineman Ben Stille said. “Bringing back two of their quality linemen up front and they’ve got a couple of new guys up front too, I think it’ll be a good test for us in the run game.”
Standout leading rusher Jaret Patterson departed for the NFL, but strong talent remains. Kevin Marks Jr. had 72 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries against Wagner. Last season he averaged over 100 yards per contest and scored seven touchdowns in as many games. He topped 1,000 yards in 2019 as well.
Along with Marks, Ron Cook Jr. led the team last Thursday with 95 rushing yards and a score. While no running back topped 100 yards, four had over 50 and all five backs to carry the ball more than once averaged over five yards a touch.
“Buffalo’s a really good team,” linebacker Nick Henrich said. “We’re gonna need to be ready to go. They have good backs, very disciplined.”
Through two weeks, Nebraska has had mixed results stopping the run. On paper, the Huskers have allowed 3.9 yards per carry, placing them as average in the category nationally.
However, the team has had its struggles. Illinois averaged just 3.5 yards per carry against Nebraska, but broke multiple big plays on the ground and ran the ball 10 times on an eight-minute drive to open the third quarter.
That drive gave the Husker offense less time to mount their comeback attempt, and Stille said not letting the opponent chew up clock will be an emphasis against Buffalo.
“Our job is to get the ball back to the offense as quickly as possible and get them as many series as they can throughout the game,” he said. “So with any team that is an emphasis but especially with a team that wants to run the ball.”
Against Fordham, the Rams averaged five yards per carry in the first half and had two rushes of over 20 yards in the second quarter. Stille mentioned that Fordham’s tempo and scheme threw the defense off early, but they got used to it as the game progressed.
Buffalo is stronger on the ground than either of the Huskers’ first two opponents. The Husker run defense has had its inconsistencies, and this game will be a test for the unit.
Head coach Scott Frost said he’s watched the Bulls’ defense more than their offense as of now, but had overall praise for the MAC runner-ups.
“Their kids know how to win. They played for a conference championship last year. I think they’ve got talent,” he said. “… They looked like world beaters in game one. Our guys are preparing and know we have a challenge next Saturday.”