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UB Bulls looking to correct penalties, turnovers and defense during bye week

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Coming off two straight losses and a 0-1 start in Mid-American Conference play, the Buffalo football team’s bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. 

With a week off, the Bulls (2-3, 0-1 MAC) have a chance to rest and look at the film from the past two weeks to correct several areas, including penalties, turnovers and its defense.

“Turnovers and untimely penalties are what put you in a bad position,” said head coach Lance Leipold after Saturday’s 28-22 loss to Bowling Green. “We’re just putting ourselves in tough situations for us to overcome. Especially on third down, we’re driving the ball on two separate occasions and penalties stopped us.”

With a week to prepare for Central Michigan (2-3, 1-0 MAC), the Bulls have time to fix one of its biggest drive-killers: penalties.

Penalties a part of the game, from the more common plays like an offsides and pass interference, to the more intricate calls like the newly outlawed pick play. Either way, fans can’t see a football game on Saturday or Sunday and not see a yellow penalty flag.

After Saturday game against the Falcons (3-2, 1-0 MAC), the Bulls rank 10th in the conference in penalties with 46. In the past four games, Buffalo has committed at least eight penalties in every game, including a season-high 14 against Penn State.

Last week, senior offensive tackle John Kling was called for two personal foul penalties, both on third down, halting two different drives for the Bulls. On Saturday, a dubious pass interference call negated senior wide receiver Marcus McGill’s touchdown call in the second quarter and the Bulls ended up with just a field goal on that drive.

Senior quarterback Joe Licata said the penalties are something that must be fixed moving forward.

“I think we’re about four to six plays from victory [in] all of our losses,” Licata said. “We continue to shoot ourselves with turnovers and penalties. We continue to shoot ourselves in the foot and we need to figure how we can play a better game. It’s one of the main things to work on in the bye week.”

The offense has lived up to expectations with Licata leading the charge and the development of McGill, sophomore wide receiver Collin Lisa and senior tight end Matt Weiser. But turnovers have also been an issue in addition to the penalties.

Licata has been picked off five times this season in six games. The interceptions have come at crucial times too, like near the end zone in Saturday’s loss and at the end of the game against Nevada (2-3, 0-1 Mountain West Conference).

The Bulls allowed more than 370 yards for the past three games, including a 536-yard torching by Bowling Green on Saturday.

The defensive line has to play better. Nevada and Bowling Green both controlled the tempo, thanks to their ability to lean on their running game. Both teams ran for more than 200 yards while Buffalo’s defensive line struggled to create pressure and garner sacks.

Outside of junior cornerback Boise Ross and his breakout season, the Bulls’ secondary has struggled. Buffalo has allowed three 100-yard receivers in the past three weeks with two Florida Atlantic receivers going for more than 100 yards and Bowling Green sophomore Roger Lewis’ 200-yard performance on Saturday.

Buffalo will look to fix its issues before it plays Central Michigan on the road Oct. 17. Kickoff time has yet to be determined.

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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