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In The News: Catching Up With The Bulls
A 2019 redux? It would start with Ohio.
Image from UBBulls.com
Knock on wood, but Buffalo is about to hit the “easy” stretch of its schedule: home against Ohio, on the road at Akron, home again for Bowling Green, and a road trip to Oxford, Ohio to play Miami. Each opponent is a MAC East rival, and the foursome currently has a combined record of seven wins and 17 losses.
Lest you think the win-loss situation is deceptive, perhaps due to non-conference Power Five beatdowns less relevant in the context of MACtion, consider this:
There are 130 FBS teams in America. According to ESPN’s FPI ranking system, Ohio, Akron, and BGSU are among the 10 worst teams in the country. Miami, the best of the bunch, is ranked 99th.
The Bulls are 84th, which ain’t great, but it’s a significant upgrade over #128 Akron, a team that ESPN would expect to lose by 25.5 points to an average FBS team on a neutral field.
There’s hope! And, as we shall see in a moment, there’s precedent. Here’s what you may have missed in the Bulls media ecosystem this week:
Rachel Lenzi of The Buffalo News talked to Buffalo QB Kyle Vantrease and head coach Maurice Linguist this week, and drew parallels between the team’s current predicament (2-4, 0-2 in Mid-American Conference play) and that of the 2019 Bulls. That group also started the season 2-4 with a pair of MAC losses before winning five of its last six games, finishing with a 5-3 conference record and earning a trip to Nassau for the Bahamas Bowl (another win—a 31-9 trouncing of Charlotte). Not bad! “Right now, we’re going through a lot of adversity,” Vantrease told Lenzi. “The identity of this team needs to be resilient.”
Hunter Skoczylas of The UB Spectrum pulled four takeaways from last Saturday’s 48-38 loss at Kent State. You can click to read all four, but it’s no surprise that he believes the roller coaster ride of good Bulls/bad Bulls needs to stop: “They didn’t do enough to get the victory, and sit at 0-2 in MAC play,” Skoczylas writes. “UB needs to find some continuity on both sides of the ball if there’s going to be any sort of opportunity for postseason play.”
Tim Riordan breaks down the Bulls’ backfield in his latest post for UB Bull Run, noting that the trio of Kevin Marks, Jr., Dylan McDuffie, and Ron Cook, Jr. are each on pace for roughly 700-yard season and may have a chance to eat in the weeks ahead. “They also face some very iffy run defenses in our next three games,” Riordan writes, referring to Ohio (241.7 rushing yards per game, worst in the MAC), Akron (210.7 ypg, 11th of 12), and Bowling Green (179.2 ypg, 6th in MAC). “(The trio has) sparked in the past couple of weeks to the point where each looks like they are very capable of a breakout game.”
Hustle Belt’s Steve Helwick is handing out midseason MAC grades, and Buffalo gets...a B-. Not terrible for a 2-4 team! “After the departure of Lance Leipold and several key contributors including All-American halfback Jaret Patterson, there was no question 2021 would be a rebuilding year under first-year head coach Maurice Linguist,” Helwick writes. “Buffalo has yet to win a conference game, but it appears to be a solid football team that has been victimized by a difficult schedule.” One could argue that they’ve been victimized by themselves at times, as well, but it’s a fair point.
The official University at Buffalo football site is always chock-a-block with juicy stats, and this week is no exception. Consider these nuggets: Bulls RBs have 24 receptions for 143 yards this season, which is 19 more catches than their backs had in the entire (shortened) 2020 season; Buffalo ran 99 plays against Kent State last week—the most in the program’s FBS history!—en route to 549 yards of offense, 402 of which came in the second half; and the much-maligned defense (I am guilty of much of the maligning myself) has the 11th-best red zone defense in FBS, holding opponents to a 67.9 scoring percentage. Plenty more on site.
Buffalo faces Ohio (1-5, 1-1) this week, 30-27 losers against Central Michigan last week. The Bobcats do boast the MAC East Offensive Player of the Week in RB De’Montre Tuggle, who ran for a cool 11.8 yards per carry en route to 201 rushing yards and a TD in the loss. More on Ohio at the Bobcats’ official site.