Bulls host UConn, chase second straight win
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 19:09
For the 12th time in the last 15 years, the Bulls will square off with Connecticut Saturday. That’s UB’s most common opponent in that stretch that doesn’t play in the Mid-American Conference.
Buffalo has not won a contest against UConn since 2001.
“It’s not frustrating [losing close games to UConn in the past]; you just know the difference between winning and losing is a couple of plays,” said senior safety Okoye Houston. “We know we are close to that milestone of beating them.”
This milestone would not only be the first time the team defeated the Huskies (0-3) since Jeff Quinn took over as head coach, but Quinn’s first victory over any non-conference FBS school.
The Bulls (1-2) return to the field for the first time since their sloppy five-overtime victory over Stony Brook Sept. 14. Buffalo is coming off its bye week, and the squad is looking to prove it is better than its last performance.
“We’ve set a lot of goals as a program this season and this game is very important for us to achieve them,” Quinn said. “With a veteran team, this is the perfect timing to see where we are at.”
The Huskies’ offense is led by quarterback Chandler Whitmer. Under first-year offensive coordinator T.J. White, this is a much different offensive attack from what Buffalo has seen in previous years. UConn likes to run a quick-paced, no-huddle style and beat you through the air.
The Bulls’ secondary will likely play a huge role in the team’s ability to extend their record to 2-0 at UB Stadium. The defense has allowed 317 yards per game through the air thus far this season.
During a “quiet” week from senior receiver Alex Neutz against Stony Brook – which still included 10 receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown – senior receiver Fred Lee and sophomore running back Devin Campbell had their best receiving games of the season, combining for 11 receptions and 117 yards.
As opponents begin to game plan more toward stopping Neutz, it will become important for sophomore quarterback Joe Licata to involve his secondary targets consistently.
The Huskies have struggled to begin the season, but they impressed many by putting a scare into the No. 15 Michigan Wolverines last week on national television. Connecticut led 21-14 entering the fourth quarter, but Michigan’s offense combined with UConn’s untimely turnovers to yield the Huskies’ demise.
Turnovers almost cost the Bulls, as well, two weeks ago. Buffalo had two, an interception and a fumble, in the contest. Quinn acknowledged turnovers will play a huge role for both squads this Saturday.
As for the health of senior running back Branden Oliver, Quinn said Oliver would play and be a significant part of the team’s game plan. Sophomore running back Anthone Taylor, who amassed 118 yard and two scores on the ground filling in for the injured Oliver two weeks ago, will also see his share of carries.
“It is going to be the matchups, the physical one-on-one matchups that will dictate the outcome of this game on both sides of the ball,” Quinn said.
This is the Bulls’ last opportunity to gain momentum heading into Mid-American Conference play.
Against Stony Brook, Buffalo had its third-highest attendance (24,014) in UB Stadium history. The program hopes to put up similar numbers this week following a pregame concert by country music star Randy Houser at 1:30 p.m. in the stadium parking lot.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 at UB Stadium.
Predictions: Buffalo vs. UConn (-1)
Aaron Mansfield, @aaroncmansfield (2-1): UConn
The Bulls should have won against UConn in 2011 and 2012. It’s always would’ve/could’ve/should’ve in this matchup, but Huskies come out on top.
Jon Gagnon, @jgags15 (2-1): Buffalo
Inexplicably, I still reserve some faith in the Bulls. Home atmosphere, two-week break and the seniors’ last chance to take down the Huskies is a formula for success.
Ben Tarhan, @bentarhan (1-2): UConn
Talent makes me want to pick Buffalo, but coaching forces me to pick UConn.
Owen O’Brien, @owenobri (2-1): Buffalo
Was two weeks ago a fluke or was the Ohio State performance? I’m not ready to sell the Bulls as a bowl team, but I may after this week.