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Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Bulls Look to Shock the World

Across the front entrance to Alumni Arena is a banner that reads, "We Can Shock The World," referring to the Bulls' football game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights this Thursday night at UB Stadium.

Easier said than done.

The game will be the beginning of new UB head football coach Jim Hofer's regime, but he won't be the only one looking to make a good first impression.

For Rutgers, a new coaching era also will begin Thursday night. Greg Schiano, a former Rutgers graduate assistant, was hired in the off-season to breathe new life into a program that finished last in the Big East last season with an 0-7 conference record. At 35, Schiano is the youngest coach in Division 1A.

The similarities between the two teams do not end in their new coaches. Each has been picked to finish last in its conference by nearly every member of the national media; both teams have also switched to a 4-3 defense this season.

"I think we have made some changes that strengthened our defense," Schiano said. "I can't wait to see them play in games."

The Scarlet Knights have been making headlines lately by naming true freshman Ryan Cubit their opening day starter at quarterback. Cubit comes from Central High School in Portage, Mo., and was rated the 18th best QB in the country by the SuperPrep ranking service following his senior season. Bill Cubit, Ryan's father, is the offensive coordinator for Rutgers.

Upon hearing the decision to start Cubit, junior quarterback Chad Schwenk left the team. The loss of Schwenk puts the Scarlet Knights in an interesting predicament. If Cubit is not ready to play at the Division 1 level, Rutgers will not have an experienced quarterback to rely on. Junior walk-on Ted Trump has been moved up to the backup role for Thursday's game.

On the defensive side of the ball, Torrance Heggie impressed the Scarlet Knights coaching staff in spring workouts with his pass-rush skills, prompting his move from linebacker to defensive end. Heggie will be joined on the other side of the line by junior Raheem Orr, who will see the first action of his career. Orr spent his first two seasons tearing up the practice squad while he was held out of the lineup for academic reasons.

"The term I hate to use is 'bend but don't break,'" Schiano said of his attacking defense. "We're going to play you."

The soft spot on the Rutgers defense lies at cornerback, where the combined efforts of Tony Berry and Brandon Haw resulted in only one intercepted pass - against the Bulls - during the entire 2000 season.

What the Bulls Need To Do

First and foremost, the Bulls will need to put pressure on Cubit. He has no college experience and could be rattled early on if the Bulls can collapse the pocket and get some sacks.

Buffalo will need to stop the run. Rutgers running back Dennis Thomas closed out the 2000 season with back-to-back 100-yard games and was elected the team's MVP. The Bulls defensive line will have to hold their own in the trenches and count on the linebackers to plug the gaps.

Bulls QB Joe Freedy will need to take advantage of the match-up with the Rutgers secondary and get off to a hot start. Buffalo will need its passing game to set up the run, which will be difficult because the Scarlet Knights' defensive line and linebackers are the strong points of their defense.

Win the turnover battle. Four turnovers led to last year's 59-0 loss at Rutgers Stadium. The game will be over by halftime if UB makes these mistakes again.

What the Scarlet Knights Need To Do

Although they are rebuilding, Rutgers is more talented than UB at just about every position. They know it, the media knows it, and they have to make sure that UB knows it. The Scarlet Knights need to put the Bulls away early, the longer UB can stay in the game, the more confidence they will have, and an underdog with confidence and nothing to lose is a dangerous mix.

Get good field position. If Rutgers can make the UB offense go 70-80 yards to score, there is a good chance that UB will see another goose egg on the scoreboard.

Protect Cubit. The Scarlet Knights need to let their young quarterback get settled and throw the ball. He will be nervous and he will make mistakes, but if he has time to throw his confidence will grow quickly.


The Bulls have moved Duane Williams back to linebacker. Williams was playing at defensive line in spring drills. He ranked second in the MAC last year with nine sacks and 15 tackles for a loss at linebacker.

Buffalo's offensive line has lost quite a bit of weight, led by senior Tim Hedges, who dropped 45 pounds.

Rutgers' long snapper Ryan Neill has a broken hand but will probably play.

Sophomore Ryan Sands will be kicking for the Scarlet Knights instead of senior Steve Barrone.

A crowd of over 22,000 is expected for the game. It is the first time that a Big East school has come to Buffalo.

The Bulls will be wearing new helmets and uniforms. The helmets are blue and features a Bull's horn logo.



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