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Are the UB Bulls ready to go bowling?

Buffalo’s schedule providing chance for bowl berth


The Spectrum

The Buffalo football team could be looking at a bowl berth.

I know, it’s a funny thing to say about a 3-4 team.

But that’s what the Bulls are looking at right now. Well, at least to me. Last Saturday’s game against Ohio (5-3, 2-2 Mid-American Conference) is everything you want to see from the Bulls: A good defensive performance, a balanced offensive attack and success in the red zone.

If the Bulls (3-4, 1-2 MAC) are going to make a run toward a six or seven-win season, that type of play needs to be present every game.

And also, did you see that schedule?

Because you have to play every game, looking at the schedule is pointless when you really think about it.

Still, a victory over Miami Ohio (1-7, 0-4 MAC) Thursday puts the Bulls at 4-4 overall. They then travel to Kent State (3-5, 2-2 MAC), Northern Illinois (5-3, 3-1 MAC), Akron (3-4, 1-2 MAC) and Massachusetts (1-6, 0-3 MAC).

Notice that four of those teams have losing records?

Of course, so does Buffalo. But my only hesitation is that three of those five games are on the road, where the Bulls have looked so-so this season. Against Penn State, they avoided the big play from the Nittany Lions until it happened. The following week they put together a marvelous defensive performance against Florida Atlantic. 

We don’t have to talk about that Central Michigan (4-4, 3-1 MAC) game. That was the exception. Head coach Lance Leipold even wants to forget about that game.

Right now, I’m eliminating a MAC Championship from the equation, as Bowling Green (6-2, 4-0 MAC) leads the East and No. 20 Toledo (7-0, 4-0 MAC) leads the West.

However, I’m not counting Buffalo out of a bowl berth and finishing with seven wins.

Considering some of the early season results, that would be a pretty incredible bounceback.

But before we stamp Buffalo’s ticket to bowl game, we need to talk about consistency:, that’s what the Bulls need to continue to show.

The Ohio gamewas a shock to me because I didn’t see it coming. The defense was heading toward a vicious downward trend and the offense couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone heading into that game. Nothing made me think the Bulls would come out and run amuck over a pretty good Bobcats team for 60 minutes.

But that’s what happened and they looked great doing it.

Defensively, we saw a stout front four, stonewall the Ohio running game and create pressure on the quarterback. Those are things we haven’t seen Buffalo do in almost six weeks. We saw the linebackers continue an amazing season, getting two interceptions and making plays from sideline to sideline - something they’ve been doing for most of the season.

The secondary allowed a bunch of yards, which is a minor concern. Almost a third of Vick’s yards came late in garbage time, mostly on an alarming drive where the Bobcats just marched down the field without any trouble. The game was in hand, but that score did bring it back to a two-score game.

Offensively, the Bulls leaned on junior running back Jordan Johnson, who rewarded them with a monster game in light of senior Anthone Taylor’s ankle injury. In his first career start, he ran for 147 yards and two scores.

Buffalo may have finally landed that two-headed-monster the program has been hyping for years.

I’ve been a fan of team’s one-two punch in the backfield and with the offensive line stepping up in recent weeks, I think we see Leipold lean on the running game from here on out.

That’s nothing to take from senior quarterback Joe Licata and the passing game, though. It’s been the same thing for the offense – someone steps up to lead the Bulls in receiving. One week, we get Ron Willoughby, the next Matt Weiser. Against Nevada it was Collin Lisa, last week it was Marcus McGill.

I picked this team for six wins before the year started because I thought something like this would happen. If the defense has turned a corner for good, and I mean no “one step forward, two steps back,” I think this team has the talent to make it to a bowl game.

With Buffalo coming off of its finest game to date, it’s hard to imagine the team will drop off in production to a lesser conference opponent like Miami Ohio. The Bulls are playing with the most confidence and poise they have all season.

Let’s see if they can continue this success on Thursday night.

Quentin Haynes 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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