Jordan Johnson to be relied upon again with Anthone Taylor questionable for UB Bulls
Buffalo takes on Miami Ohio in short turnaround game
Head coach Lance Leipold admitted star senior running back Anthone Taylor may be limited for the football team in Thursday’s game against Miami Ohio.
But even if Taylor is limited for the Bulls’ (3-4, 1-2 Mid-American Conference), Leipold isn’t worried.
There’s just as valuable of an option behind Taylor in Jordan Johnson.
“We were confident before last Saturday,” Leipold said about Johnson, who had a breakout game last Saturday. “I think he showed that the can handle that role. He's been taking the No. 1 reps. We will see where it takes us.”
Johnson, a junior running back, erupted for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries – all career highs – in his first career start against Ohio (5-3, 2-2 MAC) Saturday. He may be poised for another huge game against Miami Ohio (1-7, 0-4 MAC) Thursday if his backfield counterpart isn’t ready to go.
Taylor suffered an ankle injury late in the third quarter against Central Michigan (4-4, 3-1 MAC) two weeks ago and did not play last week despite dressing for pregame warm-ups. As of Tuesday, Taylor was a limited participant in practice and is considered a game-time decision.
Taylor leads the team in rushes (110) and rushing yards (521) for the Bulls this season despite missing a game. Johnson trails him slightly with 452 yards, but has five touchdowns.
“That’s what we were hoping for all year, to have two guys that are going to be productive,” Leipold said. “They’ve shown that they both can be. Very proud with what [Johnson] did, stepping into that role.”
Leipold wouldn’t say whether or not Taylor will play. He is expected to travel with the team and is even expected to dress again, but a decision will come in the next couple of days to see if his ankle can hold up for game speed.
“We’re hoping. He’s doing a little more,” Leipold said. “I wish it were a regular seven-day. I’d feel better about it.”
There is only a five-day turnaround between last Saturday’s game and the upcoming matchup on Thursday, something Leipold has not encountered in his entire coaching career. The MAC is different from other conferences in that it plays week-day games throughout the month of November.
Rather than having their usual day off on Sunday, the Bulls went to work. Shortly after the game, the coaches immediately broke down game tape, a job that was usually done on the day after the game.
Leipold moved a “Wednesday-type practice” to Monday and a “Thursday-type practice” to Tuesday in order to prepare for the quick turnaround.
Leipold said the team came out with a lot of energy on Sunday after the emphatic 41-17 victory over Ohio Saturday, but looked sluggish on Monday. Leipold noted a bit of fatigue from some players following the victory, but he assured the players would get the needed time to rest before the game.
“Getting their rest is important as they go through this,” Leipold said.
Buffalo broke its three-game losing streak with one of the best all-around games this season. The defense got two pick-6’s from senior linebacker Okezie Alozie and sophomore safety Ryan Williamson. Alozie is the reigning MAC East Defensive Player of the Week after recording his first two career interceptions of his college career in the victory.
Senior quarterback Joe Licata had a better week, although he didn’t throw a touchdown pass for the second time this season. He still finished with 212 yards and a rare rushing touchdown as he prepares to conclude his career in Buffalo within the next month.
The Bulls will need to win three of their final five matchups to be Bowl eligible for the first time since the 2013 season.
And it may be an easier road than thought.
Buffalo’s final five opponents are a combined 13-25 so far this season, with Northern Illinois as the only team with a better all-around record.
But Leipold isn’t counting out the RedHawks and their 1-7 record just yet. Miami Ohio features a young team – 65 freshmen – that has a “lot of good, young talent that’s getting better.”
The RedHawks may have a growing team with multiple skill sets, but Buffalo has something that Miami Ohio likely doesn’t have after a seven-game losing streak.
“Confidence,” Leipold said. “It's no doubt that three losses in a row are tough. The thing that hit me last night driving home is that our four losses were to teams that all won bowl games last year.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in Oxford, Ohio. The game can be viewed on ESPN3.