Into the Bears’ den
Bulls set for Week Two game at No. 23 Baylor
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2013 23:09
After traveling to No. 2 Ohio State (1-0) last week to open the season, the trek doesn’t get any easier for the Bulls (0-1).
Next up is another ranked team, No. 23 Baylor (1-0). The Bears are coming off a 69-3 victory over Wofford, and the program hasn’t been held under 20 points since 2010. The Bears’ 2012 season was highlighted by a 52-24 victory over then-No. 1 Kansas State.
Last week, Buffalo battled back from a 23-point deficit to outscore the Buckeyes 20-17 in the final three quarters. The Bulls will look to take that momentum into Waco, Texas.
They must avoid finding themselves in a similar situation – behind early – this week if they want to be competitive. Baylor’s offense is explosive and it will prove much more difficult for the Bulls to overcome an early deficit.
The Baylor pace has dictated the Bulls’ practices this week in order to prepare for Saturday’s conditions. Head coach Jeff Quinn said the first-team offense ran a Baylor-style attack in practice, rather than giving this responsibility to the scout team.
“The mindset and preparation for a high-speed, high-tempo [practice] is to be able to put our defense in a situation where we are coming at them within 14-15 seconds,” Quinn said. “To be able to do that, you have to have your No. 1 offense go against the No. 1 defense. We are trying to get our best 11 against our best 11 to match what they are going to see on Saturday.”
Buffalo is aware it cannot let opportunities slip out of its grasp – like a critical fumble at the 1-yard line last week – to come out victorious this weekend.
“It makes everyone on the offensive line sick that we couldn’t punch that in,” said senior captain and offensive lineman Jasen Carlson. “So it will motivate us that much more when in that situation to punch it in.”
The Bulls will need the extra push on the offensive line. Last week, the running game averaged just 2.1 yards on 35 carries.
The Bears run what Quinn calls a “run-pass combination,” in which they look to run first but will pass if opponents overplay the run. Judging by the 69 points and 692 total yards (411 passing and 281 rushing) last week, stopping this offense will be a daunting task – although it’s worth noting those numbers were against an FCS opponent.
Quarterback Bryce Perry, who was the third different opening-day quarterback for Baylor in as many seasons, will start at quarterback and is complemented by running back Lache Seastrunk, who is one of the most explosive players in the nation.
The defense, led by seven seniors, is filled with experience – including safety Ahmad Dixon, who is regarded as one of the best defensive backs in the country.
Quinn noted in his press conference that much of the Bears’ special teams unit is unknown because “they don’t punt much.” The Bears punted once last week and 38 times in 13 games last season – under three times a game. To put that number in perspective, last year’s national champs, Alabama, punted 50 times in 14 games – an average of over 3.5 times a game.
Buffalo’s linebacking core will be a pivotal factor in Buffalo’s ability to keep this game close. In addition to continued dominance from senior Khalil Mack, contributions from junior Blake Bean, sophomore Nick Gilbo and senior Adam Redden will be much-needed.
A Texas Saturday afternoon in early September can reach dangerous temperatures, and the Bulls’ ability to play through these conditions will be a huge factor as well.
The team, however, has confidence following last week’s performance.
“It definitely helps going out to the No. 2 team in the nation and it shows everyone on the team that we’re not that much below everyone else,” Carlson said. “We went out there and competed as hard as we could. Although the score doesn’t show it, if you look at certain things, there are things we did really well and people didn’t think we could do against a team like Ohio State.”
It will take another impressive performance to stay close with Baylor.