UB Bulls take on Penn State in Happy Valley

pennstate

There’s a jump in competition coming for the Buffalo football team this weekend, as it goes from a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponent to a perennial top-25 contender.

“It’s time to turn our attention to a Power 5 opponent,” said head coach Lance Leipold. “It’s time to focus on our first road game in Happy Valley.”

On Saturday, the Bulls (1-0) will travel down to State College, Pennsylvania to face Penn State (0-1). Buffalo is looking for the program’s first 2-0 start since joining Division I football.

Last week, the Bulls took care of Albany 51-14 by dominating on both sides of the ball. It was a win that the Bulls were expected to take. Buffalo is a 19.5-point underdog against Penn State.

Leipold acknowledged the differences between the two teams while viewing film of the Nittany Lions this past week.

“I think for us, at least for the first half of the camp, there’s film of them and there’s film of us,” Leipold said. “When you look from their quarterback to their defensive line and overall team speed, you can see what they do well, what we do well and where there will be challenges for us.”

Junior cornerback Boise Ross said the coaching staff told the team not to worry about the stature of the opponent, but what the Bulls do best and their own assignments on the field.

“We’re just really focused on us right now,” Ross said. “Coach wants us to be relaxed and wants us to focus on our assignments and our plays. We do that and we can go in there and come out with the victory at Penn State. This is also a big game for coach Leipold. We’re going to make him as proud of us as he can.”

Despite the 27-10 loss to Temple (1-0) last week, Penn State is full of talent, led by quarterback Christian Hackenberg and defensive tackle Anthony Zettel. The Bulls will have to find a way to slow down the talented quarterback in order to have a chance for victory this week.

Leipold echoed the sentiment of most draft analyst in calling Hackenberg a “future first-round draft pick.”

“I can see why with his size and how he handles himself,” Leipold said. “Even as the game didn’t go his way, you can see he handles things very well. He can make throws sideline-to-sideline with a big time arm. You can see why he’s going to be a first-round draft pick whenever that times comes for him.”

Ross grew up a Penn State fan and provided a small scouting report on Hackenberg, as well as what the Bulls need to do in order to stop him and leave State College with a victory.

Ross said Heckenberg is a smart quarterback, has a quick arm and that has the possibility of stretching the field in many ways.

“In watching film this week, we’ve been active, just looking for any small hints or tips that he gives so that we can mark them down,” Ross said. “Doing that and staying cognizant of what he does is crucial for us if we want to stay ahead and make a couple plays.”

The Bulls caused three turnovers against Albany last week, including two interceptions, which tied last season’s total. The defense that was filled with holes during the preseason solidified itself after Buffalo allowed only two touchdown drives and held the Albany quarterback D.J. Cook to under 50 percent passing.

This week, Ross said the most important part of the Bulls’ defense is the defensive line.

“We’re going to put trust in our defensive line,” Ross said. “I spoke to [sophomore defensive end] Solomon [Jackson] and told him that they have to get to the quarterback early and often. If they can create pressure and stop the run, we’ll have a chance to make plays.”

The Buffalo defense allowed 4 yards per carry and 141 rushing yards against Albany and will have to improve to beat Penn State. Against Temple, running back Akeel Lynch had 78 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts.

Leipold said he believes the Bulls have to avoid all distractions around them and go into this game “like any other game” to get the victory.

“When you start making games important … I’m not a fan of ‘red letter games,’” Leipold said. “Each one should have the same importance. We do have to prepare for everything: opponents, the 100,000 people in the stands … we have to be ready to take on whatever those things might be to get a victory.”

Kickoff is set for noon in State College.

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