Penn State’s defense has been praised for its speed, its ability to converge on the ball and the controlled chaos that it creates.
And Buffalo knew this.
The Bulls knew that they couldn’t just simply line up and run against the bigger, faster, stronger Penn State defense so they used misdirection to fool it.
Buffalo rushed for 184 yards and moved the chains 22 times, 12 of which were on run plays, against a Nittany Lion defense that is considered one of the nations best.
So how did they do it?
On Buffalo’s second play from scrimmage, the Bulls showed how they would pick apart Penn State’s defense and on this first down run, it was simply a zone blocking scheme.
The entire Buffalo offensive line zone blocked and contained the Nittany Lions and opened a big hole in which Jaret Patterson bursted through for a 12-yard gain.
The play also wouldn’t have worked if Buffalo’s right tackle didn’t come around the play and pick off Micah Parsons.
Here is another example with a different camera angle of the Buffalo zone-blocking scheme later in the game.
Buffalo was able to use the penetration and aggressiveness of the Penn State defensive line against them with these zone blocking schemes.
This is something Penn State is going to see in every game this season.
On this specific play, the linebackers need to do a better job filling the holes and reacting to the reads that are given by the offense.
As the first quarter wound down, Buffalo started to show more and more misdirection.
On this second down play, Buffalo runs a simple counter play where it pulls both guards.
The first guard is supposed to kick out the unblocked defensive end, while the second guard is supposed to fill through the hole and lead block for the running back.
And even though the second guard never made it through the hole, Kevin Marks still has plenty of space to run through on this 10-yard run.
This is a play that Buffalo ran to perfection throughout the game and the Nittany Lions never really had an answer for.
Buffalo also ran a similar version of the same play throughout the game where both guards pulled.
The Penn State defense initially gets the same read as the earlier play as both guards pulled.
You can see Cam Brown see this read and start to move downhill towards the B gap where the previous play was run, but this is a different play.
Buffalo doesn’t leave the defensive end unblocked this time around as the play is designed as a stretch counter, it’s a designed outside run.
And the Bulls were able to seal the edge and pick up a first down once again on second down.
In addition to running a lot of counter plays and forcing the Penn State defense to make multiple reads by pulling multiple guards, the Bulls also ran some textbook trap plays.
At the end of the first quarter, Buffalo runs one to perfection, taking advantage of the speed of Jayson Oweh.
Oweh is left unlocked on the top side of the defensive line as it will be the pulling guard’s responsibility to take care of the defensive end and then the running back would slip right behind that block and through the hole created.
But the pulling guard never has to block Oweh.
The defensive end uses his high motor to get off the ball quickly and immediately shoots down the line and towards the quarterback.
As a very talented pass rusher, that is what you would expect Oweh to do.
But this is the wrong read. As a defensive lineman, you are never left unblocked for no reason.
Oweh leaves his gap and it creates a massive hole for Buffalo as the pulling guard has no need to kick anybody out and can instead become a lead blocker.
Here is yet another example of Buffalo using a pulling guard to success against the Penn State defense.
The entire Nittany Lions defensive line blasts up the field off the snap of the ball on this play, which is exactly what Buffalo wants.
You can see that the Buffalo offensive line isn’t fighting to keep Penn State out of the backfield, they are just sealing them off.
There is no harm with having players in the backfield as long as they aren’t where the hole is.
The Buffalo center does a good job of down blocking and filling for the pulling guard and with the rest of the Penn State defensive line flying up the field, the pulling guard is able to get to the second level and get hands on Ellis Brooks.
In the process, this also cuts off Parson’s angle and chance at making the play.
Then a missed tackle at the end of the play by Brown and Tariq Castro-Fields results in a big run by Patterson.
And it wasn’t just run plays where the Buffalo offense caught Penn State off guard.
The Bulls faced a very long 3rd-and-18 in the second quarter and it once again used Penn State’s speed against them with a screen pass.
Plays like this should never happen if you’re Penn State and is something that needs to be corrected.
Buffalo killed the Penn State defense with misdirection on Saturday and came in with a great game plan on how to matchup with the Nittany Lions defense.
This game showed that the Penn State defense isn’t invincible. They have some weaknesses and teams are going to continue to exploit them.
That being said, Penn State’s defense still had a very good game.
For every play that Buffalo pulled a guard and gained 10 yards there are two-to-three examples of plays that Penn State blew up in the backfield.
Buffalo though did what Idaho couldn’t and showed that this Penn State defense can be broken down and if opposing teams formulate a good game plan, they will be able to score on this Nittany Lions defense.