Bulls host FCS' Morgan State in home opener

By JOE KONZE JR. AND NATHANIEL SMITH
On September 6, 2012

  • The football team will look to get past defensive back Kenneth Ridley (3) and the Morgan State defense this weekend at UB Stadium. Courtesy of John Moore

There has been a lot of talk about the football team in the past week. When most people doubted Buffalo (0-1), the squad hung tough with the ferocious, then-No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs (1-0) of the Southeastern Conference.

Although the scoreboard (45-23 Georgia) was not an example of their play, the Bulls look to build upon what they started this weekend against a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team: the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's Morgan State (1-0).

The Bears were a middle-of-the-road team in the MEAC in 2011, as they finished with a 5-6 record last season.

In their most recent meeting in 1998, the Bulls hosted Morgan State in what would result in a 35-17 win, evening the series matchup at 1-1.

Last weekend, Morgan State defeated Sacred Heart 30-27 in a thrilling, four-overtime battle. It should be interesting to see how prepared and rested the Bears will be.

The Bulls, who went 3-3 at home last year, are looking to take control of their home field advantage, seeking their first win of the season in their home opener.

Morgan State was just 2-4 on the road last year. However, with solid defensive backs, this is not a team to overlook.

Leading the charge on offense for the Bears is sophomore quarterback Seth Higgins. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound quarterback uses his strong, accurate arm and good footwork as a dual threat on the field. Last week against Sacred Heart, he completed 14 of 31 passes for 153 yards.

On the ground, running back Travis Davidson is one of the best returning backs in the MEAC. Last week, the senior rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears' season opener, and his big-play ability will be something to watch.

Junior cornerback Joe Rankin is a standout defensive player. In his third season at Morgan State, he has started 23 games and recorded 55 tackles, 6 interceptions and 18 pass breakups. He has respectable coverage ability, and the coaching staff says he could eventually become the best player to ever play defensive back at Morgan State.

Key Matchup: Buffalo's passing attack vs. Morgan State's defensive backs

After a solid showing last week against Georgia, junior quarterback Alex Zordich looks forward to facing a unit that features Rankin, one of the best players on the team. The much-hyped junior was an honorable mention for last week's MEAC Defensive Back of the Week. He finished last game against Sacred Heart with six tackles, three pass breakups and an interception that he returned 72 yards for a touchdown. It was Rankin's first college interception return for a touchdown.

Look for junior wide receiver Alex Neutz to be matched up with Rankin early and often, though Zordich has no problem throwing the ball around to his other targets, like junior wideout Fred Lee and junior tight end Alex Dennison. Neutz caught five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown against Georgia. The Bulls should be able to open things up against a team that gave up 266 yards on Saturday.

He said it:

"Now he has a chance to get back out there and play the game that he loves, with the players that he loves and cares and respects, and I think our football team will be excited about having Khalil back in there."

- Head coach Jeff Quinn on the return of junior linebacker Khalil Mack

Prediction

The Bulls can't overlook this game. Morgan State has a few players who can defend the pass well. The Bulls have plenty of weapons on offense, including: junior running back Branden Oliver, Neutz, Lee and Dennison.

If the Bulls stick to their plan of establishing the ground game, Oliver (30 carries last week) should pick up where he left off last Saturday and passing lanes should open up for the offense.

It will be a battle on the outside and Neutz will be essential. However, with the help of Buffalo's passing threats, there should be no problem keeping the defense honest.

On defense, Mack's return should be a big boost for a squad that frustrated the Georgia offense at times last weekend.

If the Bulls can play this weekend like they did in Georgia there should be no problem controlling this game from start to finish.

 

Buffalo 41

Morgan State10


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