Sledding to Connecticut
Bulls look to turn it around in a potential defensive battle
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Put on your hard hats – this game will be a physical battle.
After a tough mid-week game, in which the football team was unable to finish offensive drives against Kent State (2-1, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) in a loss, Buffalo (1-2, 0-1 MAC) will now travel to Hartford, Conn. to take on a team in a similar position.
Connecticut (2-2) is hosting the Bulls after a tough game at Western Michigan (2-2), a 30-24 loss in which the Broncos jumped out to an early 17-0 lead, forcing the Huskies to throw more than they are used to.
This is a series that has been dominated by the Huskies. They have a 15-4 record against the Bulls and have won nine of the last 10 games, the only loss being a 37-20 loss at home in 2001. Last year, defenses ruled the day, as UConn used a late score to hold on for a 17-3 victory at UB Stadium.
This year is no different, as Buffalo will face a team that is known for its defense and special teams play. The Huskies are elite in both aspects; they are ranked fifth in total defense and are led by linebacker Yawin Smallwood, who has 42 tackles and four sacks so far, and defensive end Trevardo Williams, who leads the team with 5.5 sacks.
This doesn’t bode well for a UB offense that struggled in its previous outing against Kent State. Junior quarterback Alex Zordich took most of the flack, but head coach Jeff Quinn noted the loss was a team effort.
“He took a tremendous amount of responsibility from that,” Quinn said. “[But] there’s other guys out there that need to play better. We were off the mark.”
On the special teams front, the Huskies are led by senior Nick Williams, who is one of the most dangerous returners in the Big East. He averages 17.7 yards per punt return and has already bought one to the house – a 58-yard scamper in a win over Maryland (2-2). UConn uses its special teams to help an offense that can struggle at times, which should be good for junior linebacker Khalil Mack, who has an opportunity to feast on the Huskies’ offense.
Key Matchup: UConn linebackers versus Buffalo run game:
It’s a potentially exciting matchup that would have been strength vs. strength, but the health of junior running back Branden Oliver will make it that much harder for the Bulls to run on the nation’s fourth-best rushing defense. If Oliver can’t go, Quinn will most likely go running back by committee, as junior Brandon Murie and freshman Devin Campbell will have a chance to make an impact against such a stout defense.
He said it:
“I have an awful lot of respect for Lou Tepper. Coach Tepper is one heck of a coach. They’re very athletic on defense – they’re quick, they move, they hit. This is gonna be a game that we are gonna have to be prepared and motivated to play.”
– Connecticut head coach Paul Pasqualoni on the Buffalo defense and defensive coordinator Lou Tepper.
Number(s) to watch:
32-17 – The record for the Huskies following a loss. The last time they lost two consecutive games was, interestingly enough, after a 38-31 loss to Western Michigan last year. They then fell to West Virginia, 43-16.
Like last year’s game, defenses will rule the day on Saturday, as UConn and Buffalo will play to a draw in that area, holding opposing offenses in check for the most part. The Bulls’ play on special teams will go a long way in determining the victor in this game. If the Bulls can control Williams and get favorable field position, they will have a good chance to win this game.
UConn’s offense in the last few games has not wowed anybody, so if the Bulls get a quick lead against the Huskies, the Bulls’ defense should cause enough problems for a potential road upset. However, UConn should have just enough weapons to control this game, especially if Oliver is unable to play. But it will be closer than the experts think.