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THE OHIO POST-MORTEM; UB HOOPS GETS REAL
A look back at a disappointing start to November MACtion; the Bulls' men's and women's basketball teams prepare to start their regular seasons
Image from ohiobobcats.com
Well, the hometown newspaper was certainly fired up by Ohio’s first-place-stealing victory over Buffalo this past week. From Molly Burchard of The Athens (Ohio) Post:
Ohio is first in the Mid-American Conference East, and it truly played like it Tuesday night.
The Bobcats dominated the Bulls, beating them 45-24 at home. With Buffalo and Ohio being the top two teams in the division coming into the game, it was expected the game would be close. However, almost no one could have expected Ohio to look as good as it did against the team on a five-game winning streak and undefeated in conference play.
The Bobcats scored 17 points in the first quarter, the most it scored in an opening quarter this season.
Quarterback Kurtis Rourke and receiver Sam Wiglusz were in sync the whole time and were responsible for one of Ohio's touchdowns in the first. After just one quarter, Wiglusz had four catches for 77 yards and Rourke had seven completions for 99 yards.
Ohio's defense was also exceptional in the first quarter, holding Buffalo to just 43 total yards and zero points.
The second quarter was a similar story, although Buffalo picked up a little more on offense. It kicked a field goal on its first drive and scored a touchdown on its last.
Despite the Bulls cutting the Bobcats' lead to a touchdown at multiple points, the Bobcats never wavered. Even when Rourke threw a pick six one minute into the third, it didn't shake him. He looked calm and collected on the next few drives, leading the Bobcats to three more touchdowns.
The biggest highlight of the night was Ohio's defense. Except for a few unnecessary penalties, it played arguably its best game of the season. The defensive line was strong, holding Buffalo to 22 rushing yards; the secondary shut down Buffalo's passing attack with great coverage all night, and Ohio had six sacks, its most in a game this season.
That’s a fair assessment.
Considering the Overall Situation
PFF.com gives the University at Buffalo football team (5-4 overall, 4-1 in Mid-American Conference play) a 98% chance of making a bowl game. Additionally, Buffalo’s strength of schedule for the remainder of the season (at Central Michigan, Akron, and Kent State) is ranked 129th in the country—which, for those wondering, is the easiest slate in all of the FBS, with the exceptions of Middle Tennessee State and Northern Illinois. Winning the MAC East, and the MAC title, are still within reach.
But damn, it would’ve been nice to beat Ohio, right?
One loss, and it feels like five weeks of work—including a climb to the top of the MAC East standings—went out the window. On national television, no less.
A Buffalo Blizzard of MACtion Miscues
Watching the Bulls’ 45-24 loss to the Bobcats (6-3, 4-1) at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio in real time on Tuesday night, this one didn’t feel especially close:
Ohio jumped out to a 17-0 lead before UB’s Alex McNulty kicked a 28-yard field goal in the second quarter. The Bobcats added another touchdown to build a 21-point, 24-3 advantage.
Ohio out-gained Buffalo 183 yards to 43 yards in the first quarter, and 279 yards to 113 yards in the first half.
The Bulls were riddled with the kind of inexplicable mistakes we haven’t seen in the last month:
Steady wide receiver Quian Williams whiffing on a deep ball on quarterback Cole Snyder’s first pass of the game.
The offensive line, including the normally reliable tight ends, getting out-schemed or flat-out beaten by the Bobcats’ front seven, leading to a measly 22 rushing yards on the day, six sacks, and a forced Snyder fumble.
Snyder attempting an ill-advised, back-foot, cross-field heave on 3rd-and-14 into double coverage, leading to a Tariq Drake interception.
End zone drops by Ray Embry and Justin Marshall.
A 3rd-and-15 drop by Robbie Mangas, and, later, a Mangas fumble after picking up a 3rd-and-19.
Miscues or odd scheming in the secondary that left safety Keyshawn Cobb—who did redeem himself with a pick-6 and a forced fumble—on an island with Ohio’s number one receiver, Sam Wiglusz, on the Ohio State transfer’s first touchdown catch and, later, a 42-yard pickup en route to another OU TD. Cob is an excellent all-around defender, but probably shouldn’t be covering a number one receiver one-on-one.
Ohio recorded a dozen explosive offensive plays in the game. UB had two.
And yet…this was a one-score game heading into the fourth quarter.
Despite all of the miscues, drama, and the loss of home run-hitting wide receiver Jamari Gassett, who was out with a leg injury, Buffalo was down, 31-24, with 15 minutes to play.
Beaten Down at the Line of Scrimmage, and Beaten in the Secondary
On rewatch, the culprits here were found in the trenches.
Out-gained 157 yards to 22 (!) yards in the rushing game, the Bulls had to rely on Snyder—and OU knew it. Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke (20-for-29, 317 passing yards, five touchdowns) was hurried nine times, never hit, and never sacked. He also scrambled for 45 yards. Right guard Hagen Meservy, right tackle Shedrick Rhodes, Jr., left tackle Jay Amburgey, and tight end Will Kacmarek were essentially impenetrable.
Snyder? Snyder was hurried 17 times, hit three times, and ate the ball five times.
The culmination of the line domination came in the fourth quarter. Down 38-24, Buffalo’s normally reliable left guard Gabe Wallace missed a block that led to a Kai Caesar sack on Snyder, forcing a fumble on the UB 12 yard line.
Two plays later, Miles Cross beat Buffalo cornerback Caleb Offord for a nine-yard touchdown reception—a nice pass by Rourke deep into the corner of the end zone, but helped by the fact that the front four got zero pressure on the so-called Maple Missile (Rourke’s Canadian!). Game over.
Buffalo’s most effective offensive player on Tuesday was, according to PFF.com, tight end Trevor Borland, due in large part to his blocking grades—he was the best blocker on the day for the Bulls, by far.
The lowest offensive scores went to fellow tight end Mangas, very much out of character for the normally steady Dartmouth transfer. It also hurt that backup offensive linemen Nick Hartnett and Caelen Shepard played a combined seven snaps, which included a Snyder sack, Snyder’s interception, and a four-yard, drive-killing loss on a run by Al-Jay Henderson.
Defensively—and this met the eye test—linebacker James Patterson (pictured below) graded out at an elite level, particularly on run defense. Big Game James finished with 16 tackles, easily the game-high.
Image from ubbulls.com
On the flip side, linebacker Shaun Dolac—a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy, given to the nation’s top walk-on—Cobb, safety Marcus Fuqua, and corners Offord and Isaiah King had perhaps their worst overall performances of the year.
How much of that is due to Rourke—the best pocket quarterback Buffalo has seen all season, and I’d include Taulia Tagovailoa and Grayson McCall in that bunch—and how much is due to a bad day at the office is open to debate.
Is it time to panic? Nope.
Take it from Bulls head coach Maurice Linguist, who spoke to Rachel Lenzi of The Buffalo News:
"There's no different ingredient that we need, there's nothing new for us," UB coach Maurice Linguist said after the loss. "We have a very sound and trusted process that we have, and for us, we have to respond in this situation by doing the next right thing in the process for us. We have to get our mentality back where it needs to be…
"Any time we don't get the result we want, there's a level of disappointment. There's always all these feelings involved in games, but what we have to do is just make sure we go right back. When things feel like they're at their best or at their worst, go back to your standards. Who are you? What are your standards? Respond to the situation."
“You’ve got to maximize the moment," added Snyder. "And that’s tomorrow. That’s the rest of the night, tonight. We’re focused on going 1-0 versus Central Michigan. We’re not looking ahead. We’re not looking behind us. We’re looking at the present moment, right now.”
The Sky Is Not Falling
Image from ubbulls.com
We can do the Debbie Downer sports fan thing, which is to cry and moan after every bad outcome and complain that the sky is falling.
Or we can assess the scenario and make a realistic assessment of the future.
Easy wins? CMU just whipped Northern Illinois, 35-22, a game in which the Chippewas (3-6, 2-3) ran for 245 yards against a pretty decent NIU run defense.
But Kent State has the 41st-ranked offense in the country. Even with a 3-6, 2-3 record, the Golden Flashes are dangerous, and will be playing for their bowl lives.
We’ll see how good the Bulls really are. That’s exciting! Against Toledo and Ohio, the two leaders of the respective MAC divisions, UB played, perhaps, two solid quarters of football, came out of those games outscored by 16 points, but also earned a 1-1 record. We’ll take it, knowing that tighter first and fourth quarters against the Bobcats could’ve meant a totally different outcome.
Buffalo’s not an easy win this season. There’s a target on its back. It’s time to adjust to the adjustments. It’s what makes football fun.
CMU, Wednesday night, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2. Horns up.
Buffalo College Basketball Is Back, Baby
Hey, even if most of last season’s players aren’t, college basketball is back at the University at Buffalo! The men’s team is predicted to finish sixth in the Mid-American Conference, while the women are pegged for ninth. Neither squad placed a player on the preseason all-conference teams. Not a big surprise; both programs are essentially unknown quantities (of course, you can always check out our preview post to learn more about the two teams).
Here’s how they’ll start their seasons.
UB WOMEN: AT CANISIUS, MONDAY, NOV. 7, 5 P.M. (ESPN3)
Image from ubbulls.com
The UB women are starting off with a legit crosstown rivalry game. Becky Burke makes her regular season debut with the Bulls, while Golden Griffins coach Sahar Nusseibeh is in Year Two of a rebuilding project at the Koessler Athletic Center. Like UB, the Griffs are picked to finish ninth in their (MAAC) conference.
Buffalo defeated Daemen College 61-51 in an exhibition contest on Sunday. Four Bulls scored in double figures led by fifth year guard Zakiyah Winfield who recorded a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Fifth year guard Jazmine Young scored 15 points while sophomore Emerita Mashaire (pictured above) added 10 points. The Bulls turned defense into offense as they scored 26 points off Daemen turnovers and added 15 fastbreak points. Buffalo also held a 34-28 advantage in the paint and a 38-35 edge on the glass, including scoring 14 second chance points off 14 offensive boards.
The Canisius Golden Griffins finished the 2021-22 season with a 6-25 overall record and a 3-17 conference mark in the first year under head coach Sahar Nusseibeh. Canisius returns three of their top five scorers from a season ago, led by Preseason All-MAAC Second Team selection Dani Haskell who averaged 14.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game a year ago. The Golden Griffins added four true freshmen and one graduate transfer in Vannessa Garrelts from Miami (OH).
Image from gogriffs.com
UB MEN: COLGATE, MONDAY, NOV. 7, 7 P.M. (ESPN+)
The Red Raiders are no joke. From ColgateAthletics.com:
Less than eight months removed from hoisting the Patriot League trophy for the third time in four years, the Colgate men's basketball team starts a new journey Monday night when the Raiders open their 2022-23 season at Buffalo.
The journey is guided by 12th-year head coach Matt Langel, who was recently named one of the country's top mid-major coaches by CBS Sports. The Raiders return three starters from last year's championship team, including fifth-year senior Tucker Richardson, who swept the Patriot League preseason awards as Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
Colgate was picked first in the preseason poll after receiving 17 of the 20 possible first-place votes by the league's head coaches and sports information directors. The Raiders have tied or beaten the preseason projections for 11 consecutive years with Langel at the helm.
The Red Raiders gave #14 Wisconsin all the Badgers could handle in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last season. Colgate was within four points with less than four minutes to play before eventually falling, 67-60.
Image from instagram.com
And Buffalo? Well, it’s tough to say. The new-look Bulls knocked around Daemen in a preseason exhibition, 95-66, after leading by only three points at halftime. UB looks like a fun team—guards Zid Powell (pictured above), Curtis Jones and Armani Foster (a combined 37 points and 17 assists in the exhibition), in particular, keep the ball moving—but how that translates against a legit mid-major competitor is something we won’t really know until Monday night.
Buffalo is coming off a 95-66 victory in its lone exhibition game against Daemen. 11 different Bulls scored in that game, including a game-high 16 points from sophomore Curtis Jones. There are many new Bulls on the roster, but the blue collar attitude still remains. The team continues to preach defense, as they forced 21 turnovers against Daemen.
Colgate went 23-12 last season and 16-2 in the Patriot League, winning the conference title for the second consecutive season. The Raiders took it to the No. 14 team in the land, Wisconsin Badgers, in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. The Raiders dropped the game, 67-60 in the Midwest Regional.
Buffalo is 16-39 all-time against Colgate. The Bulls were victorious in the last meeting between the two programs on Dec. 1, 2004, by a score of 74-62.
Buffalo is currently ranked 181st in the kenpom.com rankings, fourth in the MAC behind Toledo, Akron, and Kent State. The Bulls have a projected 14-15 record, including losses in eight of their first nine games against D1 competition.
Image from kenpom.com
UB is also expected to have the 22nd-fastest tempo per game, so they may be bad, but at least they’ll be entertaining!
Nothing’s written in stone, of course. This will be the most challenging season of head coach Jim Whitesell’s UB career. He’s done a nice job of assembling talent on the fly—on Monday, we’ll start to see where it goes.
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