Football season comes to a close
Bulls look to next year after four-win 2012
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 13:11
The 2012 season, which was highlighted by a three-game winning streak against Mid-American Conference opponents, marked the highest win total for the football team under head coach Jeff Quinn.
The Bulls (4-8, 3-5 MAC) finished the season winning three of four games to help erase the memories of a season that was plagued by injuries and missed opportunities.
“Our mindset is about having a November, December tradition,” Quinn said. “That is to get to be bowl eligible and to be able to be in a position that we see Kent State in and Northern Illinois.”
The Bulls’ junior star running back, Branden Oliver, missed most of the season with leg injuries, which tested the team’s “Next Bull In” mentality. He still managed to rush for 821 yards on 148 attempts and five touchdowns in the seven games that he played.
Freshman Devin Campbell filled in admirably for Oliver and had a fulfilling season. Campbell rushed for 502 yards and two touchdowns on 115 attempts, while grabbing 21 receptions for 176 yards and a touchdown in his first season in a Bulls uniform.
“There was a stretch early in the season where this team could have quit and just said, ‘Hey we’re done,’ and they didn’t do that,” Quinn said. “There is a lot of exciting things going on with our football program. [We’re] very determined about moving it forward.”
Another freshman who filled in nicely was quarterback Joe Licata. He had shown promise at the beginning of the season, throwing a touchdown on his first passing attempt in the Bulls’ blowout victory over Morgan State (3-8, 2-6 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference).
Throughout the season, junior Alex Zordich had commanded the Bulls’ offense but was injured late in the Bulls’ game against MAC rival Toledo (9-3, 6-2 MAC) in October.
Licata got his first start against Miami Ohio (4-8, 3-5 MAC) and threw for 285 yards – a Bulls season high – to complement two touchdowns passes. He then led the Bulls to their first road win since 2010 against UMass (1-11, 1-7 MAC), giving Buffalo its first three-game winning streak since 2009.
“We certainly know who’s been there for the last four games and done a great job,” Quinn said. “He knows he’s got more work to do, but he helped us win three key games in critical situations.”
Junior wide receiver Alex Neutz grabbed most of the passes thrown in his direction this season. After injuring his wrist in 2011, Neutz came back stronger than ever, posting a stat line of 65 receptions for 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns. His record-setting night came on Sept. 8, when he snatched eight receptions for 154 yards and four touchdowns.
His most memorable moment, however, was his Hail Mary catch against Kent State (11-1, 8-0 MAC), in which he out jumped four defenders for a touchdown just before halftime.
“It’s certainly exciting to know that we have [Neutz] coming back. He had over 1,000 yards [receiving],” Quinn said. “He ranks up there with Drew Haddad and Naaman Roosevelt. He’s one of the finest out there.”
The Bulls’ defense, led by junior linebacker, Khalil Mack ranked second in pass defense and fifth in rush defense in the MAC.
Mack also finished the season by breaking Vince Cardosa’s (1992-95) record for tackles for loss in a career and has a very good chance at being drafted this April if he chooses to declare.
“We certainly expect all of our players to complete their degree and complete their college eligibility and they know how much that means to this football team,” Quinn said. “These things are certainly parts of discussion with Khalil, but I’m not making that decision. That’s a decision that needs to be made by Khalil.”
Mack finished the season with 94 total tackles, 21 for a loss.
The Bulls graduate 12 seniors this season and will look to build upon what they started as they open up their 2013 season at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Aug. 31.