Licata be kidding me

On November 18, 2012

The era has begun; he's finally here. He stands in the pocket and delivers passes to receivers like his high school career promised.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Licata is the cornerstone of the Bulls' (4-7, 3-4 Mid-American Conference) winning identity.

Licata has led the Bulls to three straight wins, the longest winning streak under head coach Jeff Quinn. The Bulls' win against UMass (1-10, 1-6 MAC) on Saturday was their first road win since Oct. 10, 2010 at Bowling Green (7-4, 4-2 MAC).

What is most impressive about this? Licata has erased a forgettable past in just three starts.

The Bulls have been leaning on the running game all season and this weekend Licata had to perform without junior running back Branden Oliver and freshman counterpart Devin Campbell, who were out with injuries.

The Bulls found their running game in the second half with help from junior Brandon Murie and senior fullback Rashad Jean. But it wasn't until Licata began firing passes and the UMass defense began to worry about the Buffalo passing attack. The offense began to click once again behind the arm of Licata, who propelled them to a convincing 29-19 win.

Numerous times in the second half, Licata made big plays to put his team in position to score in the red zone. Three throws stuck out to me.

Licata hooked up with junior Fred Lee for a 34-yard pass on third and 16 as part of a nine-play, 77-yard drive that led to a touchdown. Lee was wide open over the middle but Licata was still able to complete the textbook throw on a crucial third and long.

The second throw came in the fourth quarter. Licata hit Lee yet again on another beautiful pass for 44 yards over the middle.

The third throw Licata made was probably his best of the season - one that shows me that he is becoming a well-developed quarterback. Late in the fourth quarter, Licata led Lee on a post route to the sideline for 15 yards. It could not have been a better-thrown ball; he put it right on the numbers and the defensive back had no chance at making a play.

The season has been a disappointment for fans, and going into the locker room at halftime down 13-0 to a brand new Division I program was not what any Bulls fan had in mind.

However, when the Bulls took the field for the second half, there was a different feel to the offense. Licata's body language was much different. He looked poised in the pocket.

On third and goal, Licata went through all of his reads as he rolled out to the right looking for an open receiver. He waited patiently and fired a pass to junior wide receiver Alex Neutz - who was his last option on the play - across the field for a touchdown.

Can you imagine what the season could have been like with a healthy Oliver in the backfield and Licata at the helm the whole time?

It's a cliffhanger to a story that fans are reading, desperate to get to the sequel. The only problem is that sequel won't be out until next season.

What we have right now is a blueprint for success, an outline for victory. A young quarterback who is just one game away from throwing 1,000 yards in four games (he currently has 877 yards).

Like we always say here in Buffalo, "There is always next year." However, this time it's different.

With Licata at starting quarterback, MAC opponents just met their new conference rival.



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