Newfound Buffalo Offense Squares off with Intimidating Temple Owls
Published: Thursday, October 13, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 19:11
Who will win this weekend?
What a difference a week makes.
Just seven days ago, Buffalo fans were discussing the collapse of a team that simply couldn't fulfill its potential. They were talking about the minimal productivity of the offense. They were analyzing a 1-4 team that was winless in the Mid-American Conference.
This week, everything's changed. The Bulls (2-4, 1-1 MAC) are merely one win better in the standings, but the vibe around UB Stadium has taken a complete 180-degree turn. Buffalo will carry its fresh momentum into Temple to face the acclaimed Owls (4-2, 2-1 MAC) on Saturday. A win for Buffalo would grant the Bulls at least a share of first-place in the MAC East Division.
Temple's only losses this season have come at the hands of MAC West leader Toledo (3-3, 2-0 MAC) and Big Ten force Penn State (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten). At the same time, the Owls have pounded Atlantic Coast Conference power Maryland in College Park (2-3, 1-1 ACC), 38-7.
The Bulls will need their offense to continue surpassing expectations as they face the Owls, who are led by a pair of talented running backs. Temple ranks 11th in the country in rushing offense.
The Owls dominated Buffalo last year, 42-0, with their running game. They rushed for 266 yards, while the Bulls could only muster 63.
"This week is all about payback," said sophomore cornerback Najja Johnson. "Last year is definitely on a lot of guys' minds, and we've got to redeem ourselves this week."
Temple tailback Bernard Pierce is No. 1 in the nation in rushing touchdowns, with 15. Diminutive running back Matt Brown has also ran for five touchdowns. Pierce has run for 692 yards on the year, while Brown has scampered for 323.
"They have a ball-control offense," said head coach Jeff Quinn. "They know who they are and that's who they want to be. We're built to stop the run, but they have some very talented running backs."
Saturday's matchup will pit the conference's two top rushers – Pierce and sophomore running back Branden Oliver – against each other.
The Buffalo offense finally lived up to expectations in last week's 38-37 victory over Ohio (4-2, 1-1 MAC).
Oliver, who's been Buffalo's most consistent offensive threat, continued his remarkable 2011 campaign by rushing for 182 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries.
Senior quarterback Chazz Anderson finally had his breakout performance against the Bobcats: he threw for 343 yards and two touchdowns on 23-of-39 passing.
Senior receiver Ed Young – who was still living in the shadows of two colossal dropped passes against Pittsburgh – put on a show. He finally escaped the stigma, catching five passes for 135 yards and a touchdown.
The Bulls' defense surrendered 37 points and struggled at times, but it stepped up when Buffalo needed it most.
In Buffalo's first MAC matchup on Sept. 17, the Bulls lost to Ball State (3-3, 1-1 MAC) when the Cardinals scored a touchdown with just 29 seconds left. Ball State's final drive chewed up the fourth-quarter clock, as the Cardinals marched for 75 yards on 18 plays. Buffalo had Ball State pinned in two fourth-down situations on that drive, but the Cardinals converted on both plays and eventually overran the Buffalo D for the game-winning touchdown.
It was heartbreaking – so heartbreaking, in fact, that this Buffalo team wasn't ready to experience that feeling again.
The Buffalo defense rose to the occasion on Saturday.
The Buffalo D will need to shift its focus from pass defense to stopping the run this week, as the Bulls will key in on containing Pierce and Brown.
Quinn said the Owls' stats speak for themselves, and his team is aware of the potency of the Temple offense.
Johnson is a former walk-on who earned his way into the starting lineup through strong special teams play.
"As always, I'm concerned with controlling the passing game, but [I'll take] any chance I get to help in the run game," Johnson said. "Still, my primary concern is the passing game and any play action passes."
The Temple defense has matched the effort of its offense this season. The Owls are only surrendering an average of 11.17 points per game, which ranks them seventh in the NCAA.
Temple also has an extremely strong special teams squad – No. 1 in the nation in kickoff returns.
The Buffalo offense, defense, and special teams will need to play their best game of the year for the Bulls to win.
This weekend is homecoming for Temple, and the Owls have won two straight homecoming games and their last two against Buffalo. The Bulls will look to break the streaks Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.