On the prowl
Bulls finally come home, take on Panthers on Homecoming Day
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
After three road games, which stretched through three different states and two different time zones, the Bulls (1-5, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) will finally have the home-field advantage for the first time in a month.
Buffalo looks to end Homecoming Day festivities on a positive note as it takes on a tough challenge in Pittsburgh (2-4, 0-3 Big East), a team that is also struggling this season. The Panthers have some playmakers on offense, starring running back Ray Graham. He has rushed for 439 yards and four touchdowns this year. He is the latest in a long line of electric “scatbacks” – especially fast – who have headlined the Pitt offense in its history, which includes guys like Tony Dorsett, Curtis Martin, Dion Lewis and LeSean McCoy.
Graham, who is second all-time in all-purpose yards with 4,173 yards, is part of a three-headed tailback monster, which includes Rushel Shell and Issac Bennett. They have combined for 870 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Pittsburgh’s offense tandems continue at the wide receiver position. Veteran quarterback Tino Sunseri’s dual threats on the outside of receivers Devin Street and Mike Shanahan have combined for 68 catches, 1,039 yards and six touchdowns. Last week, they both topped the 100-yard mark in receiving in a 45-35 home loss to Louisville (6-0, 1-0 Big East).
The Panthers are looking to bounce back defensively after giving up 45 points last week. They are led by Jason Hendricks, a defensive back who leads the team in both tackles and interceptions with 37 and three, respectively.
Last they met…
Last season, UB opened up its season in Pittsburgh, as the Bulls hung on for three quarters before succumbing to the Panthers, losing 35-16. Graham had a career day, rushing for 201 yards and scoring three times for Pitt, in the first game of then-head coach Todd Graham’s tenure.
The Bulls’ offense started its season on a positive note, as Chazz Anderson threw for 276 yards and ran for a score. It was Anderson’s first game of action since he transferred from Cincinnati, where he played for UB head coach Jeff Quinn. Oliver eclipsed the 100-yard mark in rushing, scampering for 114 yards. His one-yard score shrunk the Pitt lead to 21-16 before the Panthers pulled away.
Quarterback Tino Sunseri has improved every year since he was named the starter as a sophomore. The senior is currently eighth in the country in pass efficiency. When the two teams met at Heinz Field last season, he threw for 179 yards and a score.
In Pitt’s last four meetings, he has been on a tear, completing 74 percent of his passes for 1,233 yards and eight touchdowns with only one pick.
Matchup to watch
Bulls passing attack vs. the Pitt defense:The Bulls finally found a secondary option (to junior wide receiver Alex Neutz) in the pass attack last week in sophomore wide receiver Devon Hughes. He went over the century mark for the first time in his career when he caught nine balls for 105 yards.
His progression in the offense will be key to the continued development of junior quarterback Alex Zordich as a passer, who, despite two interceptions last week, improved on his accuracy. His completion percentage of 62 percent was his second-highest mark of the year.
4:This matchup is the fourth time the Panthers and Bulls will meet since they started their series in 2008. Buffalo is also trying to snap a four-game losing streak. Though the Bulls did not have junior running back Branden Oliver for the third straight game and finished under 100 yards rushing for the first time in over a year against Northern Illinois, the squad is still fourth in the MAC in rushing offense with 200.2 yards per game.
The Bulls have been struggling as a team recently but have been in a position to win in five of their six matches this year. The exception, Northern Illinois (6-1, 3-0 MAC), is an elite team, probably the best in the MAC West, if not the conference. Buffalo will learn from last week’s game and will come out firing at home. The Panthers have been up and down all year, inexplicably losing to FCS team Youngstown State this year, so there is some upset potential.
The Bulls have confidence after playing this team tough last year, and that will transition into this year’s contest. Expect a thrilling performance from Zordich, who has been slowly improving in the pass game each week. Even though Pitt will eventually win this game due to its sheer depth on the offensive end, an upset would not be surprising.