Tuesday night spotlight
Bulls set to square off with Bobcats in MAC heavyweight bout
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 21:10
Buffalo football has another opportunity to make its mark on the national stage.
The Bulls (6-2, 4-0 Mid-American Conference) will host Ohio (6-2, 3-1 MAC) in a Tuesday showcase on ESPN2. Buffalo opened its season with then-No. 3 Ohio State on the same network, and senior linebacker Khalil Mack had a performance that shot him up the NFL Draft big boards.
A little over nine weeks later, Mack’s stock has continued to grow and the Bulls sit atop the MAC East – they are the lone team without a loss in the division.
Buffalo has been unstoppable in conference play this season, outscoring opponents by a league-best 148-38 (+110). The second-best differential belongs to Ohio (+90).
The Bobcats have been the most consistent winning team in the MAC East for the past seven seasons, according to head coach Jeff Quinn. They’ve totaled a 40-21 conference record, including three first-place MAC East finishes and six bowl-eligible seasons.
“We need to separate ourselves,” Quinn said. “We are striving to take full control of the MAC East.”
Senior quarterback Tyler Tettleton – a three-year starter – leads Ohio. Tettleton has thrown for 8,179 yards and 63 touchdowns and has rushed for 912 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2.5 seasons. Although he does not run nearly as much as he did his sophomore season – when he recorded 658 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns – Quinn described him as an athlete capable of keeping plays alive and moving around in the pocket.
The Bulls suffered a potentially devastating injury last week when junior safety/linebacker Adam Redden was forced to leave Saturday’s game against Kent State (2-7, 1-4) with a knee injury. He will not play this week and the timetable for his return is still unclear. Redden is third on the team in tackles (50) and sacks (3.5), second in tackles for loss (8.5) and first in fumble recoveries (three).
Buffalo’s six-game win streak – its longest since 1959 – has much to do with a different attitude among the Bulls’ players.
“I’d say one of the biggest changes is that we do know how to respond when [teams score on us],” junior center Trevor Sales said. “I feel like this year we take it that when someone scores on us, we take personal offense to it, like a person came into your house and took food off your plate.”
Ohio’s offense ranks 33rd in the country in passing (275 yards per game) and 40th in total scoring (33.6 points per game). Tettleton has completed 68 percent of his passes, totaling 2,029 yards and 17 touchdowns with only six interceptions this season. His favorite target is senior wide receiver Donte Foster, who has 50 receptions for 718 yards and six touchdowns.
Foster has already amassed more yards than he had last season and has totaled over 100 receiving yards in the past three games.
The run game is split between senior running backs Beau Blankenship and Ryan Boykin. The two have 550 and 364 yards, respectively, and 10 combined touchdowns.
Buffalo senior running back Branden Oliver and Mack were awarded MAC Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week, respectively, following last weekend’s 41-21 victory at Kent State. Oliver has rushed for 401 yards and five touchdowns on 74 carries in the past two contests.
Senior receiver Alex Neutz is two touchdowns behind Naaman Roosevelt for the program record for touchdown catches (28).
This week, Mack was named one of 16 semifinalists for the Chuck Bednariak Award, given to the nation’s top defensive player, as well as one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker.
Senior defensive lineman Colby Way and junior linebacker Blake Bean are listed day to day. Quinn said he is “pretty sure” they will be able to play against Ohio.
Tuesday will mark the first of three consecutive Tuesday night games for Buffalo. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. at UB Stadium.