Buffalo Travels to Face Eastern Michigan

By BRIAN JOSEPHS
On November 10, 2011

  • Alex Gillett (8) leads the Eagles in rushing yards and is going to be the Bulls’ main opposing threat on Saturday. Courtesy of Steve King Photography

            The football team has traveled to four road games this season, but that doesn't mean it has come to play in all of them.

            The Bulls (2-7, 1-4 Mid-American Conference) have been nothing short of atrocious on the road, as they've lost eight straight games outside of UB Stadium. The Bulls are 0-4 on the road this season, and they've lost three of those games in embarrassing fashion. They've been outright bamboozled on the road this season, and have been outscored 116-23 in the last three away games.

            The Bulls have their final chance to end the streak as they travel to Ypsilanti, Mich. to face Eastern Michigan (5-4, 3-2 MAC) this Saturday. Buffalo is coming off a bye week, and head coach Jeff Quinn has used the week to refocus the team for the final three games of the season.

            "I keep telling our team that this is a different team this year," Quinn said. "I know our record hasn't shown that, but this team has improved. It has progressed. What we need to understand is that these next three games are critical – none more important than the one we face this Saturday."

            The Buffalo offense isn't coming into this game on a good note either. The Bulls thrive on their running game, but star sophomore tailback Branden Oliver was smothered by Miami (Ohio). Oliver had his worst game of the season, running for just 62 yards.

            The offensive line was just as responsible for the poor rushing performance. The play of the O-line was one of Quinn's focal points during the bye week.

            "It's about the guys winning up front – those one-on-one confrontations," Quinn said. "We have it in us. We just have to be able to get in there, watch more film, see what Eastern's doing, and make sure we're correct in every single call that we make."

            Buffalo will also be without its next biggest weapon on offense – sophomore wide receiver Alex Neutz. The sophomore left at halftime against Miami (OH) because of a fractured wrist. He is projected to be out for the remainder of the season because of the injury.

            Neutz has been a reliable target for senior quarterback Chazz Anderson. He has amassed 641 receiving yards and four touchdowns, which are team-highs.

            Neutz's responsibilities will now fall in sophomore wide receiver Fred Lee's hands. Lee has only 53 receiving yards and nine receptions this year, but Quinn still holds a lot of confidence in him.

            "Certainly we've challenged Fred, and…he's up for the opportunity to show what he's capable of doing," Quinn said.

            Eastern Michigan doesn't come into this weekend's game with a top-tier offensive unit either. The Eagles' offense has been average at best, as Eastern Michigan owns the 11th-ranked scoring offense in the MAC. The squad also ranks dead last in the conference in passing offense.

            Eastern Michigan's strong ground play has largely made up for its dormant passing attack. Quarterback Alex Gillett and running back Javonti Greene lead the Eagles' run game. The two have combined for a total of 1,296 yards this season.

            The Bulls have been soft against the run this year, as they've allowed 201.4 yards per game, which ranks 11th in the conference.

            "There's an emphasis in their run game," Quinn said. "You can tell that they've worked extremely hard on their physicality. It's going to be a great challenge for our front seven."

            The Eagles have posted a 4-1 record at home. Their home field success, combined with Buffalo's misfortune on the road, could spell another disaster for the Bulls. However, Quinn is still optimistic about his team's chances.

            "We haven't been successful on the road at all this year, and this is our last chance to go out on the road to do that," Quinn said. "It's an important week for us and we certainly look forward to the challenge – and I know our kids are."

            Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.

 

Email: sports@ubspectrum.com


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