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UB Bulls look for bowl eligibility against Akron

Both teams sit at five victories

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Lance Leipold is remaining modest.

With his Buffalo football team just one win away from being bowl eligible for just the third time since rejoining Division I in 1999, the head coach didn’t take much credit Tuesday.

He does realize, however, how much it would mean for the program.

“It’s not about myself as the head coach, but what it would do for the program,” Leipold said. “For what our seniors have worked for, what the program wants to be, it would be huge.”

The Bulls (5-5, 3-3 Mid-American Conference) will travel to Akron, Ohio to face a Zips (5-5, 3-3 MAC) team that will also be looking for one more victory to become bowl eligible.

When discussing the Zips, Leipold acknowledged the challenge his team faces this week. Not only does his team have the pressure of being one game away from bowl contention, but Akron is peaking at the right time as winners of its last two games and three of its last five.

“Akron is an experienced football team and this should be an exciting match,” Leipold said. “Both teams are 5-5, 3-3 in the conference and both have a lot to play for.”

Akron ranks second in the MAC in total defense as it allows 341.5 yards per game and has given up 29 touchdowns on the season. The run defense in particular is Akron’s strength, as it has allowed the fewest yards on the ground in the conference.

One way the Bulls can attack the Akron defense is through the air. The Zips are ninth in the conference in pass defense and have allowed 19 touchdown passes through 10 games.

Buffalo may rely on tight ends Matt Weiser and Mason Schreck. Due to an injury earlier in the season, Schreck, a junior, doesn’t have the statistics Weiser, a senior, has, but both have had productive seasons so far.

It’s something Leipold envisioned at the start of the season.

“We came out of spring ball looking at our two tight ends as weapons that were going to be steadily uses as much as they could be,” Leipold said. “We never said, ‘This guy is going to have as many catches,’ or asking our staff how many targets did they get. To figure that Matt Weiser and Mason Schreck were going to be used offensively was the goal.”

Leipold’s introductory season is the best by a Buffalo coach since 1969, when head coach Bob Deming lead the Bulls to a 6-3 record through the first nine games. However, even though this is a year of progress and potential history for the Bulls, it’s about the team’s success.

Weiser has recorded the most catches by a tight in a single season with 53, while senior quarterback Joe Licata broke Drew Willy’s school record for most passing yards in a career last week.

Although proud of these accomplishments, coach Leipold is not surprised that these feats happened to these people.

“The way [Licata’s] hung in there, the way he’s played, [that record] is well-deserved,” Leipold said. “It was never obvious that [Weiser] would have 50 catches on the year, but he works hard every day and is a quality individual on and off the field. Both have exceeded expectations and we’re going to need a couple big weeks from them to end the season.”

Saturday’s game ends a stretch where the Bulls played four games in 18 days. The effects of that was shown against Northern Illinois where Buffalo allowed 41 points, 28 of which came in the first half, and more than 500 yards of total offense. Leipold said the team needs to do better “wrapping up and getting into position” on tackles and a small break could help the team in doing that.

“I think we have to get better and involved faster on the perimeter,” Leipold said Tuesday. “It’s been almost a week since we played, but the four games in 18 days and with our staff out recruiting, it was good for them to get that mini-break. I expect to see some more energy out there today, hopefully leading into Akron, and help us secure a victory.”

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

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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