A ‘business trip’ to Kalamazoo
Buffalo seeks its first road victory of the season at Western Michigan
Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2013 21:10
After a weekend of many firsts – in which the football team improved to 3-2 for the first time in the modern Division IA era, defeating Eastern Michigan for the first time in school history – the Bulls will look for another first this weekend: a victory on the road against a Mid-American Conference West opponent.
The Bulls (3-2, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) will leave UB Stadium for the first time since Week Two when they travel to Western Michigan (0-6, 0-2 MAC) Saturday. They are still searching for their first road victory of the season.
“If we want to be a good football team, we are going to have to win games on the road as well as at home,” said senior cornerback Najja Johnson. “We have to go on the road and take care of business and do what we are supposed to do and that’s the bottom line.”
The defense has certainly “taken care of business” this season at home. After a sluggish start against two nationally ranked opponents in which the defense allowed 55 points per game, the Bulls have allowed just 49 points total and forced nine turnovers in the last three games.
“Organized chaos,” Johnson said of the team’s defense. “We want to create as many turnovers as we can and score as much as we can on defense and shorten the field for our offense because the entire team feeds off it.”
Western Michigan has struggled on both sides of the ball to begin the season. The offense ranks 121st in the nation in points scored (15 per game) and the defense ranks 116th in points allowed (38.2 per game). The Broncos challenged themselves with a difficult non-conference schedule and have opened MAC play against two strong teams in Kent State and Toledo.
The Broncos lost by a combined score of 79-34 in their first two MAC games.
Western Michigan may be without its starting quarterback – senior Tyler Van Tubbergen – who was forced to leave the Toledo game early last week. Freshman Zach Terrell played well in his place, however, completing 10 of 13 passes for 184 yards.
Freshman wide receiver Corey Davis has been the Broncos’ most dangerous player through six games, totaling 412 yards and two touchdowns on 28 receptions.
The Bulls’ offense has seen improved success as they’ve run the ball more effectively in recent games. Over the first two games, mostly due to the large deficit on the scoreboard, the Bulls were unable to run the ball often. Even when they did run, however, it was met with little success – averaging just 1.85 yards per attempt.
Buffalo ran the ball an average of 44 times a game over its past three contests and recorded just shy of 4 yards per carry (3.9).
“I think [a run-first offense has] been the formula for success,” said head coach Jeff Quinn. “I think we see that’s where our strength is and as it continues to grow, that’s where we will put our main focus in.”
Senior running back Branden Oliver’s 150-yard, two-touchdown outburst last week was his best performance of the season and earned him the MAC East Division’s Offensive Player of the Week award. Sophomore running back Devin Campbell, who had a his 96-yard kick return touchdown, was recognized as the National Kickoff Returner of the Week by College Football Performance Awards.
In the final minutes of last week’s game, a scuffle emerged on the field between Buffalo and Eastern Michigan. Three Buffalo players and one Eastern Michigan player were ejected. Quinn said sophomore defensive back Dwellie Striggles has been suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game, but he will play in the game. The other players involved will receive no consequences.
In injury news, it appears the Bulls may be without starting junior linebacker Blake Bean. He is listed as doubtful heading into kickoff with an undisclosed injury.
The Bulls look to put their early-season road woes to rest as they embark upon what Quinn called a “business trip” to Western Michigan. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m., and the game will be on ESPN3.
Buffalo (-11) @ Western Michigan
Aaron Mansfield @aaroncmansfield (3-2): Buffalo –Give me Joe Licata over the freshman starting at QB for Western Michigan.
Owen O’Brien @owenobri (4-1): Buffalo – This is an even bigger statement game than last week. I don't expect anything less than continued defensive dominance from the Bulls.
Ben Tarhan @bentarhan (2-3): Buffalo – The offense may not put up 40, but the Bulls’ defense has been too good to allow a lot of points to such a bad Western Michigan team.
Jon Gagnon @jgags15 (3-2): Buffalo – Run, run and run some more. Western Michigan can’t stop what has been the Bulls’ catalyst in their past three wins.