Biting my tongue
The UB football team is better than I expected
Prior to the start of this season, I was critical of the UB Bulls football team and more specifically their coaching staff. But four games in, I have to say I think I was wrong.
This team has impressed me all four games this year. I thought the offensive play calling was problematic, but in reality it was just relying on a receiver we didn’t have last year. The addition of junior Anthony Johnson this year has been crucial. He single-handedly jump-started the long ball week one and that was the biggest thing this offense needed.
Last year the team struggled to throw deep week after week, this year they have at least one 40-plus yard pass in three of four games. The run game has opened up a lot offensively the last two weeks and while I wouldn’t put it on the same level as it was under Simon’s tutelage, it has at least become a contributor.
The defense doesn't feel anything like last year’s unit that got gouged by every team with a quarterback who could run the 40 in under five seconds. The pass defense is statistically similar to last year, but they have been tested a lot more with the run not being as easy of an option this year. Cameron Lewis and Tatum Slack have both had some impressive pass break-ups that involved reading the offense prior to the snap.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyree Jackson has been the brightest light this year. He dominated his first three and a half games of the season. He already has 960 total yards and seven touchdowns. But he went down last game after a sack and didn't return for the second half. His injury leaves this team's future up-in-the-air. His status is uncertain for this week and isn't any more clear for the rest of the year.
But if one half of Drew Anderson football is any indication, this team will be able to keep winning games. Anderson composed himself amazingly for jumping in at half. He was a huge part of pulling out the win against FAU. He completed his first six passes and completed 78 percent of his passes. He also had his first career Division I touchdown.
The coaching staff’s ability to get over the injury was huge. I thought Leipold and staff called a fantastic second half offensively to allow Anderson to be successful. They cut down on the quarterback runs and went with more running back carries. Through the air they worked towards more short passes and got some good ball movement.
Defensively, the coaching staff really excelled against FAU. Brian Borland and his defense mostly contained Lane Kiffin and his national championship winning offense. They were smart about rotating the big men upfront on the defense and the team never seemed to wear-out against a mile-a-minute offense.
I think this team is entering MAC play in a great place–exponentially better than last year. They are only .500 but they easily could be 4-0 if a couple things went differently in the first two games.
I think they are going to do some damage in the MAC. This team should be able to beat Kent State, Miami (OH), Akron and Bowling Green. Ohio and Western Michigan will likely beat UB. Ball state and Northern Illinois are up in the air.
I predict that this team will go 4-4 if Jackson is injured for an extended period, but if he plays most of the conference schedule this team will finish above .500 and go 5-3. Either way this team should be able to qualify for a bowl game this year.
Daniel Petruccelli is the Co-Senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com