Discover more from UB In 5
SEPTEMBER IS ALMOST HERE: THE FIRST FOUR FOES OF THE UB BULLS' 2022 SEASON
PLUS: Breaking down the (limited) game film from the Blue and White scrimmage this weekend.
Image from ubbulls.com
In all fairness to the University at Buffalo football team, 2021 went about as well as could be expected (they should’ve beaten Bowling Green, but another story for another time). A spring coaching change, a boatful of starters or projected starters jumping ship for Kansas, and a series of key injuries…the 4-8 finish, including a 2-6 record in the Mid-American Conference, may not have been an ideal scenario, but neither was it totally surprising, either.
Things have changed. The MAC preseason media poll has Buffalo in third place in the MAC East and sixth overall in the conference, which would’ve meant a bowl berth in 2021. Coach Maurice Linguist has lured an impressive class of recruits and transfers onto campus (Ibrahim Kante had three sacks for North Carolina State in 2021 and no one’s even mentioned the guy!) and now it’s time to take a step forward.
Win the MAC East? That may be aggressive.
Go to a December bowl game? That’s a solid, doable expectation.
Let’s take a look at the roadblocks in the way towards an appearance in the HomeTown Lenders Bahamas Bowl, or the Duluth Trading Co. Cure Bowl, or the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Notes from UB Football Practice
The Blue and White are officially doing work in the Murchie Family Fieldhouse for the past 10 days. Here’s what Coach Linguist had to say after Day One:
I’m really, really excited about the group of guys we’ve got in the locker room, and the work that they’ve done over the last seven months. We’re like most teams, we’ve got a lot of work to dow over the next 30 days in training camp, but we have healthy competition—just guys understanding their responsibilities a lot better, bouncing around, understanding the practice culture a bit better.
On Saturday, the Bulls did a little bit of hitting:
Coach Linguist sounded optimistic about the way the team was coming together without offering too many hints about the direction some key competitions are shaking out:
Compared to this time a year ago, so many guys are so familiar and comfortable with their scheme and their job responsibilities.
A lot of guys on defense stepping up. A lot of familiar faces—(linebackers) James Patterson, Shaun Dolac played very well today. I thought our d-line was disruptive at the point of attack. We had a goal line period where they stood up strong and kept the offense out for a couple plays—and then the offense came back and responded in the red zone.
They were able to march it down, (wide receivers) Marlyn Johnson made a couple nice plays, Q Williams, Justin Marshall…All the quarterbacks took care of the ball, they’re pretty healthy, pretty well, and just a healthy competition on both sides.
We’re going to continue this evaluation mode, we’re going to put guys in different positions, evaluate, improve their technique and fundamentals, and ultimately we want to find out who we can depend on in critical situations in the game.
The biggest thing is that we’re healthy. We’re healthy physically, we’re healthy mentally, I think our culture is strong, the connection is strong, and we just got to continue to improve and grow.
Highlights from the video include:
Quarterback Matt Myers goes deep to Marlyn Johnson for a touchdown, splitting young defensive backs Keyshawn Cobb and Dylan Powell.
Quarterback Cole Snyder finds a wide-open Justin Marshall in the deep flat for a nice gain.
Snyder scrambles up the sideline, avoiding linebacker James Patterson to go out of bounds (smart business decision).
Snyder niftily escapes through a crease after defensive end Max Michel and d-tackle Daymond Williams collapse the pocket.
Offensive lineman Gabe Wallace pancakes Michel on a goal line push. This play occurs on the first shot of the two goal line stands Coach Linguist mentions above, in which the defense breaks down the center of the offense’s point of attack.
Running back Al-Jay Henderson makes a sharp cut up the gut, slicing for what looks like first down yardage.
Quarterback Casey Case makes a nice over-the-top pitch and catch on a deep out pattern to Johnson, who toe-taps inbounds.
Snyder drops a pass to running back Ron Cook in the flat, and Cook is sprung by an aggressive downfield block from Marshall.
Myers puts the ball right on wide receiver Nik McMillan, perfectly timing a slant from the freshman.
Case drops another nice ball into wide receiver Tre Hines, who staggered cornerback Isaiah King while shaking loose from safety Solomon Brown.
Nice to see some new names and familiar faces in that roundup. But now…let’s look at our first four.
Thanks for reading UB In 5! Subscribe for free because the Twitter algorithm is a mystery.
UB Bulls September 2022 Schedule Preview
Image from umterps.com
AT MARYLAND. Sept. 3, 12 p.m., Big Ten Network. The Terrapins (7-6 overall, 3-6 in the Big Ten in 2021) bring back a conference-high 15 starters from last season, a campaign in which UM won its first four games by a combined score of 149-57 and then lost six of its next eight contests. Maryland finished strong, waxing Virginia Tech, 54-10, in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Expectations ate high in College Park this season, where redshirt junior Taulia Tagovailoa (pictured above)—an Alabama transfer, All-Big Ten honorable mention, school record holder for single-season completions (328) and passing yards (3,860), and MVP of the Pinstripe Bowl—leads a high-powered offense fueled by receivers Rakim Jarrett (62 receptions, 829 receiving yards, five touchdowns), Dontay Demus, Jr. (28 receptions, 507 yards, three touchdowns in five games), and Florida transfer Jacob Copeland (41 receptions, 642 receiving yards, four touchdowns). The entire offensive line from 2021 also returns, according to Emily Gianbalvo of The Washington Post. The defense is a little sketchier—good corners, though. The Terps are #38 in ESPN’s FPI, and this will be a much tougher game for the Bulls than last season’s opener against Wagner.
Image from goholycross.com
HOLY CROSS. Sept. 10, 6 p.m., ESPN+. The FCS Crusaders (10-3, 6-0 in the Patriot League) opened last season by embarrassing UConn in a 38-28 win in East Hartford, and ended its run with a tough 21-16 second-round playoff loss to Villanova. That shouldn’t happen to Buffalo, but the Bulls will be well aware that Holy Cross doesn’t mess around. Bob Chesney was the Patriot League Coach of the Year last season, 14 Crusaders are preseason all-conference selections, and the young men from Worcester are the definitive pick to win the conference with 11 first-place votes to Fordham’s two. Keep an eye on senior linebacker Jacob Dobbs (pictured above), a preseason All-American and a member of the Buck Buchanan Watch List for best defensive player in the FCS.
Image from goccusports.com
AT COASTAL CAROLINA. Sept. 17, 1 p.m., ESPN+. We saw the Chanticleers (11-2, 6-2 in the Sun Belt) last season in Buffalo, when the then-16th ranked CCU squad held on for a 28-25 victory over the hometown Bulls. UB’s defense put on what may have been its best performance of the season, holding Coastal’s insane speed option offense—which came into that game averaging over 50 points and 535 yards per game—to a touchdown per quarter and just 455 yards. The Chants did go on to play in the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl against MAC champion Northern Illinois, pulling out a wildly entertaining 47-41 win.
Buffalo will not face that same CCU team this season. Shemari Jones, who rushed for 145 yards and averaged over nine yards per carry at UB Stadium, just got cut by the Cincinnati Bengals. Javion Heiligh, who caught four balls for 91 yards and a touchdown in last season’s game, remains on the Cincy roster. Kameron Brown, who caught three passes for 79 yards, is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Isaiah Likely, whom the Bulls held to one catch for six yards, was a fourth round pick of the Baltimore Ravens.
The bad news? Quarterback Grayson McCall—the two-time Sun Belt Player of the Year whose list of honors and records is too long to list here, but suffice to say, he’s the best player in Chants’ program history—is back. He’s also the newest pitchman for Darlington Raceway. Bandit (weak side) linebacker Jeffrey Gunter, who had 18 career sacks for CCU, is gone (also with the Bengals—what gives?), one of six defenders to get a shot at the pros this season. He’s replaced by Josiah Stewart (pictured above), a sophomore who broke the school sack record last season. The secondary and defensive line, while riddled with departures, are alleged to be deep on talent.
Coastal is 13-1 on the surf turf at Brooks Stadium since 2020, the season, when Coach Jamey Chadwell’s rebuild of the program really started to click. No, the Chanticleers won’t enter this season ranked—or even as the presumptive conference champ, an honor bestowed on Appalachian State—but McCall and Stewart at the Sun Belt preseason players of the year and no one’s expecting a huge dip for Chadwell’s bunch. Buffalo will have its work cut out down South.
Image from emueagles.com
AT EASTERN MICHIGAN. Sept. 24, Time & TV TBA. For the second consecutive week, the Bulls will play on someone else’s funky home field, this time Eastern Michigan’s Rynearson Stadium—also known as “The Factory,” complete with an industrial gray playing surface. Really, uh, pops on television.
Anyhow: this is a big game, of course, as it marks UB’s 2022 MAC season opener, and the Eagles (7-6, 4-4 in the MAC) are always just good enough to be dangerous. EMU beat three bowl teams from the MAC last season—Miami, Toledo, and Western Michigan—and lost by one score to NIU, Ball State, and Ohio. A touchdown here, a stop there, and we’re looking at a different 2021.
Eastern has 14 returning starters (although not quarterback Ben Bryant, who transferred to Ypsilanti from Cincinnati to toss for over 3,000 yards before transferring back to the Bearcats)—including star wideout Hassan Beydoun 97 catches, 1,015 receiving yards) and four veterans on the offensive line.
On defense, the Eagles had the third-fewest sacks in the MAC last season and the ninth-overall rushing defense, and Buffalo will likely test that line—led by bull rusher Jose Ramirez (pictured above), who had 6.5 of EMU’s 19 sacks last season—early and often.
The Eagles are ranked #116 in ESPN’s Power Index, and are 5-4 at “The Factory” over the past few seasons, so UB should be able to pull this one out. Certainly not one to take lightly, however, as Eastern coach Chris Creighton always seems to have something up his sleeve.
Thanks for reading UB In 5! Subscribe for free to receive new posts first.
UP NEXT: WE BREAK FOR BASKETBALL
Image from @beckyburke11
Lot of office debate over that use of “break” above. The saying is “I brake for ______,” like turtles or something, but in this case we’re literally taking a break from football to catch up on UB basketball this week, too. Is it better to go literal, or use the play on words? Writing, am I right.
The next newsletter will run down the current men’s and women’s rosters, who’s going and who’s staying, and introduce you to the new women’s head coach, former Louisville star Becky Burke (pictured above). Afterwards, we’re back into the football. Have a great couple days, everyone, go horns up.