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THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING OF WNY FOOTBALL IS COLE SNYDER
The Rutgers transfer and former Western New York all-star earns UB's starting QB job. Also: Previewing Buffalo's October slate.
Cole Snyder, UB QB 1
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You’ve probably heard the news by now—Rutgers transfer and Chautauqua County native Cole Snyder is the new starting quarterback for the University at Buffalo football team. Color us a little surprised the decision was made public with more than a week before the Sept. 3 season opener against Maryland, but credit Bulls head coach Maurice Linguist for being true to his word.
Snyder, a former three-sport star at Southwestern Central High School in Lakewood, New York, beat out longtime UB backup Matt Myers and third-year signal caller Casey Case for the spot under center.
“He came in with the right approach, he came in very humble but very confident at the same time,” Linguist said. “He came in, in terms of trying to be a sponge, and learning as much as he could. He’s always up here watching film, he’s a first-one-in-last-one-out guy, as well as the other ones were, too. It’s a very healthy room, in terms of the personalities working together and not necessarily working against each other, but Cole did a very good job of his consistent approach to the day-in and day-out responsibilities that we asked of him.”
Myers was the quarterback with the most experience of the three, playing 18 games in four seasons with the Bulls. The West Seneca West/Bishop Timon product started UB’s first five games in 2019, before he sustained a season-ending upper-body injury. In 10 games in 2021, including two starts, Myers was 56 for 103 passing for 703 yards and four touchdowns, and was intercepted five times. Case enters his third season with the Bulls, but has played in only one game.
Snyder played in nine games over three seasons with the Scarlet Knights, and completed 21 of 31 passes for 165 yards with one touchdown. In six games in 2021, he completed 18 of 28 passes for 130 yards and one touchdown. In a 52-13 loss Oct. 2 against No. 11 Ohio State, Snyder completed seven of eight passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Snyder faced a classic college football conundrum at Rutgers—trapped between safe but uninspiring game manager Noah Vedral and four-star freshman Gavin Wimsatt. Despite solid (albeit limited) game opportunities and an eye-popping performance in the 2021 spring scrimmage, Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano had Snyder pegged as a backup—and given Schiano’s lack of preference between Snyder and fellow backup Evan Simon, transferring back to Western New York made a lot of sense. Snyder’s gamble on himself paid off.
Where does this leave his competition? Myers entered the transfer portal earlier this year before deciding to come back to Buffalo. He’s shown flashes of brillance, but it’s been three full years since he lost his starting job to Kyle Vantrease (who left after last season for Clay Helton and Georgia Southern). Would Myers consider other opportunities again, or is he Bulls for life?
Myers is a dangerous runner and likely will see a handful of snaps per game as a change of pace and short-yardage threat. Is that enough to keep him in Western New York?
Myers is more of a known quantity than Case, who’s impressed the staff enough to get a shot at the top job this preseason but has yet to face live ammo. What else could be out there for Case, a three-star, pro-style QB out of the Orlando suburbs who—unlike Snyder and Myers—has no ties to Western New York outside of school and football? Does the South (or the Sun Belt) beckon?
We’ll soon find out. But, for now, the mystery is over—we have a quarterback again. Let the Cole Snyder Era begin.
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Respect for the Beat Reporter
Before we get started: Rachel Lenzi from The Buffalo News has been after it this week. Besides the Snyder story, she’s been doing work:
Check out her observations from UB’s training camp, in which she breaks down offensive line, wide receiver, and secondary position groups from the second scrimmage of the season. Good stuff.
Rachel also jumped on Timberlynn Yeast’s announcement that she’s committed to the UB women’s basketball team. Her stat line is gaudy—read the story—and she was second-team All-State as a 5’10 guard. Ella Weaver, a 6’0 guard and Yeast’s backcourt mate with West Virginia Thunder UAA, also committed to the Bulls this week. Coach Burke appears to be working the recruiting trail she carved out as head coach at the University of Charleston (W.V.)—she’s earned commitments from the Weaver-Yeast duo, and has already rostered transfers Re’Shawna Stone and Zakiyah Winfield (Glenville State) and Latrice Perkins (Charleston), all from the Mountaineer State. See our previous newsletter for an in-depth look at this year’s women’s basketball team.
We love our guy Naaman—and Lenzi wrote a nice human-interest piece on Roosevelt, Buffalo’s star wideout from the Turner Gill days who’s carved out a nice niche in the CFL, and his pursuit of his UB degree. Worth a read.
UB Football: The Long and Winding Road
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We’ve already previewed the first four games of Buffalo’s 2022 football schedule (go check it out), and we feel pretty confident saying, one way or another, the Bulls will squeeze a 2-2 record out of the opening act.
It won’t be easy: Maryland’s got a big-time offense and Top 25 aspirations. Holy Cross is one of the top FCS teams in the country (and UB’s only home opponent of the month). Coastal Carolina’s no longer ranked but remains more dangerous than a night of Call-A-Cabs at the Myrtle Beach Wet Willie’s. Mid-American Conference foe Eastern Michigan’s unrelentingly decent. Nothing’s a given.
And that’s just the start of the roller coaster ride. Let’s take a look at the thrills and chills October has to offer (Halloween reference).
Get Caught up On 2022 UB Football:
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UB Bulls October 2022 Schedule Preview
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MIAMI. Oct. 1, 3:30 p.m., TV TBD. The RedHawks (7-6, 5-3 in MAC play in 2021) beat the brakes off Buffalo, 45-18, in November 2021, a game that effectively closed the narrow lane UB had to defend its 2020 MAC East title. Miami came within a failed two-point conversion in overtime on the final play of its regular season in a 48-47 loss to Kent State from winning the East last November and are widely viewed as the Golden Flashes’ heir apparent to the divisional throne in 2022.
And why not? Coach Chuck Martin’s team is loaded, starting with quarterback Brett Gabbert, a third-team All-MAC selection who tossed 26 touchdowns in 10 games. He’s on the Walter Camp Player of the Year watch list and has reliable wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer, a Penn State transfer who caught 48 passes for 786 yards and five touchdowns in 2021, back in the fold.
Four starters from an already strong offensive line will protect young Gabbert, and tight end Jack Coldiron, a sophomore tight end who averaged over 18 yards a reception last season, is expected to step up. Senior wide receiver Jalen Walker, who racked up 398 receiving yards last season and 418 in 2019, will play a larger role. The RedHawks used a foursome of freshman running backs in 2021, and the whole bunch returns.
Defensively, there’s some churn, as is the style of the times. From Pete Fiutak of College Football News:
There’s a little work to do on a defense that loses a whole slew of key parts. Leading tackler Ivan Pace if off to Cincinnati and star pass rusher Kameron Butler is taking off for Virginia. The defense finished second in the conference in scoring D and is getting a ton of help, but …
Butler is off, leading sacker Lonnie Phelps is gone to Kansas, and Dominique Robinson and Ben Kimpler are done, too. Even so, the defensive tackles should be strong enough to form a good rotation – Austin Ertl and Anthony Collier are solid veterans – and on the way is Corey Suttle from Iowa State for one of the end jobs.
Trying to step in for Pace in the middle of the linebacking corps is Ty Wise from Indiana, and second-leading tackler Matthew Salopek will play a sort of hybrid defensive back and linebacker.
The secondary gave up a few too many yards in high-scoring battles, and now stepping in to help is Nolan Johnson from East Carolina at one corner to work on the other side of leading pickoff guy John Saunders. Michael Dowell is coming in from Michigan State at safety.
Now, let’s dream:
There’s a world in which the RedHawks are 1-5 and 0-2 in the MAC—and the MAC East—before midterms.
Martin’s crew has a perilous path. Miami opens the season against #20 Kentucky, gets a short breather against FCS Robert Morris, and then—in succession—faces #23 Cincinnati, Northwestern, MAC rival Buffalo at UB Stadium, and MAC East dark horse (and last year’s champ) Kent State.
The Bulls—hungry to get back to a bowl game, and ready to shoot their shot at the East division title—would go a long way towards both goals with a Homecoming win against the RedHawks.
Is it an overstatement to claim that this will be a huge game for both teams? No, it is not. A UB victory could inflict intense damage on Miami’s conference championship dreams—and perhaps even its bowl expectations.
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AT BOWLING GREEN. Oct. 8, Time & TV TBD. Circle this game on your calendar. Drive out to Ohio if you can. If there’s any game Buffalo should be fired up to win this season, it’s the annual MAC East rivalry game with Bowling Green (4-8, 2-6 in 2021).
Never forget the 2021 game, in which the Bulls—fresh off two consecutive MAC wins and slowly, it appeared, to be gaining some momentum early in the Linguist era—were humiliated, 56-44, by the visiting Falcons who, shocking win over Minnesota in one of the ugliest games of the year notwithstanding, stunk.
Without hyperbole, Buffalo’s defensive performance Saturday was the worst I have ever seen.
It’s not just that the Buffalo defense gave up a lot of points (56 points to a Falcons squad that entered the game averaging less than 20 points per contest).
It’s not just that the Bulls surrendered serious acreage (484 yards) to a team averaging 314.9 yards per game.
It’s not just that UB allowed 221 rushing yards to Bowling Green, the third-worst ground attack in FBS.
All of those things are bad, but hey, sometimes you end up in one of those freaky shootouts. College football can be a roller coaster.
No, this was the worst defensive performance I’ve seen because the defense looked absolutely unprepared. From Bowling Green’s first offensive series of the game, to the Falcons’ smug gamesmanship on their final score, the Bulls, defensively, were a mess.
Worse, there were times they barely looked like they cared.
It’s because BGSU TE Christian Sims turned a 3rd-and-16 into a 81-yard touchdown catch and run by steamrolling through UB safety E.J. Brown’s attempt at a tackle.
It’s because the defensive response to the first sign of life from the Buffalo offense, a 4:26 drive late in the second quarter to cut the score to 21-10 on a Mike Washington TD run, was allowing a two-play, 85-yard Bowling Green scoring drive completed by a 64-yard TD pass to a mystifyingly wide open Tyrone Broden.
It’s because, after whittling the Falcons’ lead to five heading into the fourth quarter, the Bulls allowed four BGSU touchdowns: a 30-yard Broden catch, a 77-yard Terion Stewart run, another 20-yard Stewart scamper, and a humiliating, rub-it-in-your-face McDonald stroll on a fake kneel-down from the UB 47.
Bowling Green was laughing at UB by the end of the game. Laughing at them on Buffalo’s home field. Getting on SportsCenter for a tacky trick play when the game was a couple kneel-downs from over.
If you’re in the Bulls locker room, you have to be dying to lay a mitt on quarterback Matt McDonald, who returns to BGSU after posting 2,555 passing yards and 12 touchdowns with a 60.1 completion percentage last season.
You have to be starving to get a piece of Tyrone Broden, who caught two pitch-and-catch touchdowns at UB Stadium last season.
You have to be dreaming of stuffing Terion Stewart, BGSU’s leading rusher in 2021 who collected 20 percent of his rushing yards on the entire season with that one 77-yards touchdown run.
You have to be relishing the opportunity to get a shoulder into linebackers Brock Horne and Darren Anders, who combined for 27 tackles, or to work the BGSU secondary, which was talked trash and committed pass interference penalties—a few of which were called—all game long.
Bowling Green fired its athletic director, Bob Moosbrugger, on Wednesday. One of the big reasons for Moosbrugger’s departure was the failure of the football program to achieve relevance. What’s that say about the confidence the school has in this year’s team? Coach Scot Loeffler—who was kicked out of last year’s game against Buffalo—is on the hot seat, despite his relentless proclamations that BGSU is on the precipice of greatness. Things get dicey (and desperate) when you win seven games in three seasons.
The Falcons open against UCLA, Eastern Kentucky, Marshall (a game that will be shown on the NFL Network, believe it or not), and Mississippi State. They’ll go 1-3. Then, in the first week of October, BGSU will play Joe Moorhead’s Akron team—a good measuring stick game for both squads. Is lowly Akron on the rise? Can Bowling Green handle the doormat Zips? They couldn’t last year!
Buffalo needs to smack this team right in the chops. Some experts are predicting big things for the Falcons this season (relatively speaking)—the Bulls need to end that talk in the second week of October. Show the world there’s one team coming up in the MAC East, and it’s not Bowling Green.
“The Falcons have a huge chip on their shoulder leading into the beginning of the 2022 season,” notes Steve Iwanek of WTOL.com.
Punch that chip right off their shoulder, Buffalo.
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AT UMASS. Oct. 15, 1 p.m., ESPN3. You hate to disrespect an opponent, but the Minutemen (1-11 in 2021) have won two games over the past three seasons and posted their last winning record in what we’d now consider Division 1 back in 1904. And what a year that was!
There aren’t many reasons to believe things will change—at least not immediately—under new head coach Don “Dr. Blitz” Brown. He has a track record, though: the good doctor previously led UMass from 2004 to 2008 (before the team entered the FBS in 2012) and was a compelling 43-19 during that run. He even took the Minutemen to the FCS title game in 2006.
Brown also has a pedigree. He’s coming off stints as defensive coordinator for Arizona and Michigan. He didn’t have to take this job.
Doc knows what he’s getting into—he describes himself as “a challenge guy. He’s got one.
The UMass offense is in complete flux, with battles for playing time at every position (including five young men dueling for the starting quarterback job). Passing the ball is likely a second thought, however. Expect to see a lot of Ellis Merriweather:
Ellis Merriweather emerged as a breakout star for the Minutemen a season ago, rushing for 1,138 yards on 218 carries — a healthy 5.2 per-attempt clip — and scored five touchdowns. A big back in the vein of Eric Dickerson, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Merriweather has the frame to take on a heavy workload without compromising speed.
The defense should be a little better with Florida State defensive end transfer Marcus Cushnie and Vanderbilt defensive lineman Marcus Bradley. Cornerback Josh Wallace broke up 11 passes in 2021.
Brown, as his nickname suggests, is aggressive about attacking the quarterback, which should be exciting, if nothing else—and anyhow, things can’t get much worse.
The Minutemen finished 130th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 43.1 points per game, 126th in rushing defense allowing 235.4 yards per game, and 100th in the nation in passing defense, allowing their opponents 249.6 yards per game. All that combined caused the Minutemen to finish 125 nationally in total defense, allowing 485 total yards per game.
With all due respect to Doc Brown and the UMass faithful, Buffalo should win by a three-touchdown minimum. This should be bowl game money in the bank.
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TOLEDO. Oct. 22, Time & TV TBD. The Rockets (7-6, 5-3 in 2021) are projected to battle Northern Illinois for the MAC West title this season. Considering the string of fortunate events the Huskies ran through in 2021, it would seem Jason Candle’s bunch is poised to take the throne. Every year, though, mighty Toledo—ranked #70 in the ESPN Football Power Index, highest in the MAC—finds a way to strike out.
Jason Candle has posted a 45-27 record in six full seasons at Toledo. He’s never had a losing record, and he’s taken the Rockets to four bowl games and a 2017 MAC title. He turned his back on a potential OC position at Miami (Florida) under Mario Cristobal this offseason.
There was serious thought that UT was on the verge of a monster season in 2021, especially after giving Notre Dame all they could handle in the Irish’s last-minute home win 32-29 win over Candle’s squad in September.
And then….things just got a little weird.
The Rockets lost to struggling.Colorado State at the Glass Bowl, a game in which they were 14-point favorites. They beat Ball State and UMass (everyone beats UMass) and then lost to NIU and CMU in back-to-back weeks by a combined total of five points. Toledo rallied to whip WMU…and the gave up 52 points to EMU in a three-point loss.
Wins over weak Buckeye State rivals Bowling Green, Ohio, and Akron to end the season got UT to the Bahamas Bowl—nice—but they lost to Middle Tennessee State. So all in all, not a bad season, but certainly a disappointing one.
“This program is so freaking frustrating,” Pete Fiutak of Yahoo! Sports wrote in his 2022 Rockets preview. “Toledo should be working on the third or fourth MAC title under Jason Candle, and yet year after year there’s something missing.” Truth.
So what makes UT a neck-and-neck preseason pick to end up in the conference championship game?
Start with quarterback Dequan Finn, an electric sophomore who threw for 2,067 yards, 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions while running for another 501 yards and nine touchdowns. Seriously, watch this guy’s highlights and tell me you won’t be rooting for him this season:
This young man is something else.
He’ll be protected by four returning lineman and he’ll be throwing to explosive little man Devin Maddox (5’9, 175 pounds, 567 receiving yards, pictured above). Experienced running backs Micah Kelly and Jacquez Stewart will have much more room to operate with former bell cow Bryant Koback off to the NFL (he’s currently rostered with the Minnesota Vikings).
Defensively, the guys at Hustle Belt report that Toledo has a “uniquely talented front, and should give every offense they face major issues in 2022.” Unfortunately, the Bulls have one of those offenses.
The defensive line room returns two starters from last season in Desjuan Johnson and Judge Culpepper, while former rotational piece Cavon Butler (22 tackles, one tackle-for-loss in 12 appearances and six starts) looks to take on a bigger role. …
First-team all-MAC backer Jamal Hines returns to the EDGE role after an 86 tackle effort in 2021, which included 15 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks, making him one of the premier edge rushers in the MAC.
When in tandem with Desjuan Johnson as a defensive end, it’s a hard day at the office for offensive lines, as their combined speed creates pressure ion Toledo’s attacking front. Hines is no slouch in the middle of the defense either, with eight pass break-ups in 2021 and three career interceptions. …
It’s a bounty of riches for the Rockets at linebacker, who employ them early and often in this defensive scheme.
Third-team all-MAC backer Dyontae Johnson returns to the lineup after picking up 86 tackles, eight tackles-for-loss of his own and 2.5 sacks to go along with an interception and five pass break-ups in coverage.
Will this be the should-win game that Toledo leaves on the table this season? Let’s hope so.
Buffalo does catch the Rockets in UB Stadium, which should help—and if the Bulls can go 1-1 in their two October home games against Miami and Toledo, two of the anticipated threats for the conference title, they should be nicely positioned to lock up a bowl bid in November.
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