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Game preview: UB Bulls take on Florida Atlantic

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The Buffalo football team has a lot to feel good about.

The Bulls routed Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team Albany (0-2) in Week One before suffering just a 13-point loss game against Penn State (1-1) in Happy Valley last week.

But to Buffalo, the only number that matters is the ‘1’ in its loss column.

The Bulls (1-1) now turn to this Saturday’s game, a road trip to Boca Raton, Florida to face Florida Atlantic University. Against the Owls (0-2), the Bulls will look to get back over .500 before coming back home to UB Stadium and closer to conference play.

“We’re excited to get back on the practice field this week,” said head coach Lance Leipold. “I thought we took a very good step against Penn State, but it wasn’t enough. Need to clean up on some penalties, clean up on some things in the special teams department.”

Heading into Saturday’s game, Florida Atlantic is coming off a 44-20 loss to Miami Florida (2-0). The Owl’s quarterback situation is in flux as both starting quarterback Jaquez Johnson and backup Jason Driskel have seen time in the first two games. Johnson is listed as “questionable” for Saturday’s matchup.

Leipold said Johnson is a bit bigger and can run the ball more, while Driskel, a redshirt freshman, did a good job filling it and can run the speed opition. Leipold said the Owl’s quarterback situation wouldn’t phase the Bulls’ week of practice.

“For us, it’s a slight change, but it’s worth the extra time of preparation for both,” Leipold said.

Last week, the Bulls’ offense stagnated early and finished with 274 total yards of offense. Senior quarterback Joe Licata finished with 205 passing yards and two passing touchdowns on 24-of-36 passing. Senior running back Anthone Taylor finished with 93 rushing yards on 18 carries.

One reason for the Bulls’ offensive struggles was the play of the offensive line, a unit that fell under scrutiny during the offseason for its inexperience. Penn State’s defensive line created pressure – highlighted by the Nittany Lions’ six sacks – and as a result, the Bulls were forced into several long-yardage plays and their offensive rhythm was killed.

On the other side of line, the Bulls failed to muster up the same pressure with their defensive line. Buffalo finished with zero sacks and just three tackles for loss. The lines, on both sides of the ball, have been a “disappointment” to Leipold and he expects change.

“There are some things we need to do to improve on the line, as some of the things we did against Penn State forced us into long-yardage situations and forced us to play for behind the entire game,” Leipold said.

Along with Bulls’ offensive woes, the run defense will have to improve. The Bulls allowed 4.0 rushing yards per carry against Albany and 200 rushing yards against Penn State.

Junior defensive tackle Brandon Crawford, healing from a hamstring injury, said the defense is still adjusting but made important strides against Penn State.

“We’re very excited about moving forward,” Crawford said. “We noticed and we saw in that game that we are heading in the right direction. After watching the film, we saw some great things we can do as a defense. Any mistakes we made, we’re just going to have to clean them up this week as we prepare for FAU.”

Crawford is a part of a defense that is in the midst of a transition. Not only are the Bulls still adjusting to the 4-3 defense, but they’re also continuing to see which players can help them moving forward. In the first two games, 10 defensive linemen, eight linebackers and eight defensive backs have seen the field in an effort to find one consistent unit.

Leipold mentioned he was “pleased” with the improvement by the defense and expects them to make strides as it heads deeper into the regular season.

With just two games left before Mid-American Conference play, Leipold expressed being “comfortable” with the remaining non-conference schedule and how this team measures up against their opponents.

“I think the next two weeks before conference play is the way [Athletic Director] Danny White is scheduled it to be and one that I’m comfortable at,” Leipold said. “It’s a good measuring stick for us as we head into conference play.”

Kickoff for game is set for 3:30 p.m.

Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @haynes_spectrum.


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