Bulls look for first win, host Stony Brook
Seawolves ranked No. 13 in FCS poll
Published: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 12, 2013 19:09
With the nightmare matchups of Heisman Trophy candidates Braxton Miller (Ohio State) and Lache Seastrunk (Baylor) behind them, the Bulls welcome an FCS school to their home field.
Buffalo (0-2) opened the season surprising many by holding then-No. 2 Ohio State within 20 points, but followed that performance with a 70-13 blowout at No. 23 Baylor.
The Big 10 and Big 12 outscored Buffalo 110-33 in those first two weeks. But, for the first time all season, the Bulls and the Mid-American Conference appear to be a daunting task for their opponent – FCS school Stony Brook (1-0).
Last time the Seawolves traveled to Buffalo in 2011, the Bulls rolled to a 35-7 victory. This year, however, Stony Brook is more dangerous than the team from two years ago – the Seawolves are ranked No. 13 in the Sports Network FCS College Football Poll, according to ESPN.com.
Last season, Stony Brook went 10-3 and was a Big South co-champion. The ’Wolves defeated Army at West Point, 23-3, and put a scare into Syracuse earlier in the season, taking a 17-14 lead into halftime at the Carrier Dome.
For the Bulls to emerge victorious in their home opener, head coach Jeff Quinn said the running game must return to where it was last season.
“It is going to be a great test for us to establish our run game,” Quinn said. “I haven’t been pleased with our run game up to this point. We need to get that squared away this week.
“I know we can throw the ball and it’s been solid, but we need to get our run game going, and certainly this is the week to be able to do that.”
A faceoff with an FCS opponent may be the best thing for senior running back Branden Oliver. In the past two seasons, Oliver totaled 364 yards and five touchdowns in his two games against FCS schools (the Bulls defeated Morgan State, 56-34, in 2012).
Stony Brook is a “ball control team” that “chops up a lot of clock,” according to Quinn. So the Bulls’ ability to stop the run will prove vital.
The lone highlight of last week’s loss at Baylor was the play of senior wide out Alex Neutz. He enters Saturday coming off one of the greatest games in program history with a career-best 197 yards and one touchdown.
In his three previous FCS contests, Neutz has put on a show, combining for 277 yards and five touchdowns – including an eight-reception, 154-yard, four-touchdown performance against Morgan State.
Neutz is well aware of the importance of this game for the Bulls to move on from their tumultuous start. He said they can’t be thinking of the 57-point loss to Baylor.
“If you sit and dwell on one game, you are going to lose the whole season,” Neutz said.
Despite the team’s offensive struggles, sophomore quarterback Joe Licata and Neutz have formed a connection, with Neutz totaling nearly 74 percent of Licata’s total passing yards.
“I think it’s that Western New York blood,” Neutz said.
Neutz and Licata squared off in high school, as Neutz attended Grand Island High School and Licata went to Williamsville South High School.
“It’s more than that,” Neutz said. “We have a great relationship outside of football [and] we watch film together almost every day. We [have] put a lot of work into what we’ve been doing here.”
The Bulls’ defense has been dominant over the past three seasons in home openers, allowing just 14 points a game.
Although Stony Brook is an FCS school, this is not a game the Bulls can look past. They will need to play their best if they hope to get back on track and put on a show for all of Western New York in the home opener. Kick off on Saturday afternoon is set for 3:30 p.m. at UB Stadium.
Predictions: Buffalo (-13) vs. Stony Brook
Aaron Mansfield, @aaroncmansfield (2-0): Buffalo
Seawolves are solid but the Bulls have won their past three FCS games by an average of 27 points. Neutz and Bo feast on lower-tier teams.
Jon Gagnon, @jgags15 (2-0): Buffalo
The Bulls fare well against lesser competition. The offense will finally find its groove and I’m expecting big games from UB’s stars on both sides of the ball.
Ben Tarhan, @bentarhan (1-1): Buffalo
If Alex Neutz had 197 yards receiving against Baylor, how many will he have against Stony Brook?
Owen O’Brien, @owenobri (2-0): Buffalo
Thirteen points is embarrassing. Stony Brook won’t be within 13 points anytime after the first quarter. This is a statement game for the seniors.