UB football prepares for Akron
Bulls face Akron Thursday night on just four days rest
The Buffalo Bulls (1-6, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) are struggling to find their first conference win and things aren’t going to be any easier this week.
After Saturday’s 44-7 loss to the Northern Illinois Huskies (2-6, 2-2 MAC), the Bulls host east division foe, the Akron Zips (5-3, 3-1 MAC), on Thursday night at UB Stadium. Buffalo will only have five days to right the ship after a turnover-riddled performance against the Huskies. Freshman quarterback Tyree Jackson will need to be more efficient as he threw four interceptions Saturday.
“You gotta be a little more simple in what you’re doing, just on your time of prep and practice reps, gotta make sure we can get it done,” said head coach Lance Leipold. “It’s probably more the fresh bodies being banged up and things like that that you need to be concerned about.”
The game plan will not only have to be simple, but also effective. The Zips are currently the third ranked scoring offense in the MAC. After continuous issues on defense, Buffalo will have to try something new to slow Akron down.
Junior quarterback Thomas Woodson has been impressive under center for Akron this season. He has completed 66.9 percent of his passes this year for 1585 yards and 15 touchdowns. Woodson missed the first three games of the Zips conference schedule but recovered after a solid performance last week in his return against Ball State.
“They’ve got big receivers they can throw the ball up to, they’ve got good inside receivers that create separation and quickness at the running back spot. So that’s gonna be a challenge,” Leipold said.
The one thing that may help the Bulls defense is that the Zips rely more on their passing game. While the Bulls rank last in the nation in run defense, they currently are fourth against the pass. Unfortunately for Buffalo, top cornerback senior Boise Ross may be out for the game after an injury against Northern Illinois. He was moving around in practice Monday but did not participate. If he is unavailable for the Bulls, sophomore cornerback Brandon Williams will have to step in as his replacement.
Akron has a strong offense but struggles on the defensive side of the ball. They are ranked 11 out of 12 in the MAC in total defense as well as ninth in scoring defense. Buffalo will need to exploit this to compete Thursday night. With two bottom half MAC defenses, this game could turn into a shootout.
The short week adds to all these issues, with less time than normal to prepare for their next opponent. That short recovery time may be an issue for Buffalo’s front seven that has been tasked with facing a massive workload this season. After being exposed in their second game of the year against Nevada, teams have rushed at least 45 times in every game against Buffalo since.
Aside from the physical aspect, the team will also have less time to study their upcoming opponent. The team is going to lose out on time on the film room and condense their normal week into only a few days.
“You know today was a combination of our Tuesday, Wednesday format and then we’ll run our normal Thursday format tomorrow,” Leipold said Monday. “[We] went for a little over an hour last night so we got some good work, they’ve really come out with a good attitude and want to get better, try to get things corrected. But were leaving the pads off, trying to stay as fresh as we can.”
While both teams face a short week, the Bulls have home field advantage. However, because of NCAA sanctions, coach Leipold explained how that may not be an advantage.
“It’s probably somewhat of an advantage to be the away team because [the home team] players have to go to class up until noon of the day of the game,” Leipold said. “You really don’t get your players till after 1 o’clock. Whereas, if you’re the away team, you’re traveling on Wednesday, you’ve got your night meetings and you’ve got all morning.”
Thursday’s kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
Dan Petruccelli is a sports staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com