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IT'S STARTING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE FOOTBALL
UB In 5 is back, everybody.
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On Feb. 27, UB In 5 published its last newsletter until…now. Why the hiatus? Life, folks, life.
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What’s happened since then?
The University at Buffalo women’s basketball team ended up with 25 wins, won the Mid-American Conference tournament, and fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 80-67, to #18 Tennessee. They gave the Vols a good game. After the season, the Bulls promptly lost Head Coach Felisha Legette-Jack and five critical players, including all-time great Dyaisha Fair, freshman sensation Georgia Woolley, and incoming frosh Lexie McNabb to Syracuse. New head coach Becky Burke brings back just two players from 2021-22, but an influx of new talent means the team may still be strong.
The Buffalo men’s basketball team, on the other hand, went out with more of a whimper than a bang. The Bulls finished with 19 wins, but lost its final three games—the most important three-game stretch of its season—including a 70-68 decision to Akron in the first round of the MAC tourney. The men also saw an exodus of talent. Star scorer Jeenathan Williams and distributor Ronaldo Segu are currently playing in the NBA Summer League. Big men Josh Mballa and David Skogman transferred to Ole Miss and Davidson, respectively. Jim Whitesell has just four members of the 2021-22 team on the roster in what may be a make-or-break year for the third-year head coach—his underachieving 2021 squad missed the NCAA tournament for only the second time since 2015.
It’s Time for UB Football
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I’ll admit it: I was a hater last season.
I was so amped up heading into the 2021 Buffalo football season that the predictable bumps from losing a successful head coach and a trove of transfers four months before the first game felt catastrophic.
The losses to both Nebraska and Coastal Carolina? Didn’t see that coming. The struggles against Old Dominion, Western Michigan, Kent State, and Ohio? Apoplectic. The four-game losing streak to end the season, including an absolute embarrassment against Bowling Green? I’m making myself angry all over again about a 4-8 season that ended eight months ago.
But hope springs eternal.
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Nine Bulls—linebacker James Patterson, defensive tackle Daymond Williams, wide receiver Quian Williams, offensive lineman Gabe Wallace, defensive end Max Michel, kick returner/running bck Ron Cook, defensive tackle George Wolo, safety Jahmin Muse, and kicker Alex McNulty—were named to the Athlon Sports Preseason All-MAC Team.
Seven players—including Patterson, Daymond and Quian Williams, Wallace, Michel, linebacker Sean Dolac, and offensive lineman Nick Hartnett—made Phil Steele’s Preseason All-MAC squad.
Yes, it hurts to lose 1,000-yard rusher Dylan McDuffie to Georgia Tech, but it’s tough to begrudge a young man making the leap to the ACC (the same can be said for the women’s basketball players who followed Legette-Jack to Syracuse).
Since last October, UB has replaced the 15 three-star transfers it lost with 15 new three-star transfers. In many cases, the new three-star athletes—such as Jahmin Muse (Boston College), Caleb Offord (Notre Dame, #5 pictured above) and Solomon Brown (Minnesota), who replace current Buffalo Bills cornerback Ja’Marcus Ingram and transfers Aapri Washington and Cory Gross from last season’s gruesome secondary—feel like clear upgrades.
Image from UBBulls.com
The White team defeated the Blue team, 38-12, in the Blue vs. White Spring Game held at UB Stadium on Saturday afternoon. With the win, the White team will be enjoying a steak dinner, while the Blue squad will have to settle for nasty hot dogs.
Redshirt-freshman running back Al-Jay Henderson stood out for the White team, rushing for 87 yards on 14 carries (6.2 ypc) and scored three touchdowns, including a 31-yard TD. Fellow running back Tajay Ahmed (pictured, top) rushed for 47 yards and a score.
Casey Case (pictured, above) started at quarterback for the White team and finished 10-of-22 for 116 yards. His favorite targets were Quian Williams who had five catches for 66 yards and Justin Marshall who finished with four receptions for 52 yards.
The White defense was dominant on the afternoon. All-MAC defensive lineman Daymond Williams had seven tackles, a sack, three pass breakups and returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown. Defensive end Solomanie Bambara had four tackles and an interception he returned to the 2-yard line to set up a touchdown. Cornerback Demarco Cuffey had seven tackles, a sack and a pass breakup.
Rutgers transfer Cole Snyder started at quarterback for the Blue squad and was 9-for-20 for 158 yards. He did have two tipped passes that resulted in interceptions. He added 21 yards rushing.
Mike Washington rushed for 61 yards on only nine carries to lead the Blue squad.
Jamari Gassett had four catches for 62 yards to lead the Blue team. Marlyn Johnson had three receptions for 66 yards and Caron Robinson added three catches for 57 yards.
Linebacker Shaun Dolac led the Blue team with a game-high 12 tackles and had a pass breakup. Fabian Weitz had eight tackles and Jayden Oliver added seven stops. Notre Dame transfer Caleb Offord had three pass breakups on the afternoon.
Kicker Alex McNulty, who kicked for both teams, had a big afternoon. The senior kicker made all three of his field goal attempts with boots of 40, 49 and 50 yards.
Veteran quarterback Matt Myers is back, setting up an interesting battle under center with Case and Snyder. The receiving game should be electric with Williams, Marshall, (a Louisville transfer), and Arizona import Boobie Curry. Fellow wideout Jovany Ruiz-Navarro is back from injury (and looking ripped). Gassett and Johnson should keep improving.
The aforementioned secondary, directly responsible for (many? all?) of Buffalo’s losses last season, has four new players from Power Five colleges (Muse, Offord, Brown, and four-star Florida transfer Elijah Blades).
UB Football: Early 2022 Predictions
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Athlon has Buffalo finishing fifth in the MAC East—fair enough considering the team only returns nine starters. Winning Cures Everything has our guys in the same spot, although they did pick Kent State, rather than Miami (Ohio), to win the MAC East.
College Football News ranks the Bulls 10th in the MAC, noting concerns about seven of their first 10 games on the road (again, fair enough), but does see a road to UB finishing with as many as eight wins. Saturday Blitz named James Patterson one of the top five players in the conference.
MAC Media Day is scheduled for July 26, after which we’ll get an idea of what the coaches and media think of the slate ahead.
In the meantime, let the doubters doubt! We’re back on the bandwagon. No one expected anything out of Northern Illinois last season, and the Huskies ended their season with nine wins, a MAC trophy, and a bowl game appearance. The cynics only make the eventual victory that much sweeter. The countdown to Sept. 1 begins.
A Note on the Future of UB In 5
Apologies for ghosting last March! It’s been great re-connecting with UB athletics, and it gives me—a lifelong Buffalo guy and current D.C. exile—a connection to the city and scene I love and miss. I don’t want to stop doing this.
With that in mind, I am setting some boundaries for my own sanity. The goal is to avoid another burnout. Here’s the rules:
Let’s tighten this up. I’m limiting these newsletters to 800 words (this version notwithstanding). You don’t have time to read 2,500 word monsters, and I don’t have time to write them.
I’m putting in a paywall. I know, it sucks. I used to think monthly paywalls were the future of journalism; now, they seem like leeches that get into your bank account and bleed you out of $50 a month on freaking emails. Anyhow, it will be extremely inexpensive, but it creates a level of commitment that I feel I need.
The main value proposition of UB In 5 remains the same. You get the important stuff fast and can stay connected to UB’s big three sports. This newsletter is a lot easier than digging through a bunch of other sources for the same thing, and we don’t have a terrible mobile user interface.
Regular weekly updates. The newsletter will come out once a week, barring major news. We’ll also do short game recaps that focus on major moments and create context for what’s to come.
That’s it. Again, I hope you find these newsletter worth a minor stipend. If you don’t, I understand. Thank you for your support over the past year, and I look forward to connecting in the seasons ahead.
So Long, Uncle Bob
One final note—I would be remiss not to mention the passing of Robert Hurley, my uncle and godfather. He was an early subscriber to this newsletter and over the last year of his life we began to email fairly regularly about UB and Kentucky hoops (he was a big Wildcats guy). Rest in peace.
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