O-Line Tips the Scales for Central Michigan
The UB Bulls defensive line will have a gigantic task ahead of them when they take on the Central Michigan Chippewas tomorrow - literally.
"CMU is massive," said Bulls' Head Coach Jim Hofher. "They may end up being the biggest team we face all year, with the heights and weights of their offensive lineman up front. They are really big from tackle to tackle."
Central Michigan's five starting offensive linemen have a combined weight of 1,510 pounds, with an average weight of 302 pounds, and an average height of 6'5". The largest Chippewa is senior left tackle Matt Brayton, who stands at an ominous 6'7", 320 pounds. The Bulls' o-line weighs a combined 1,390 pounds.
"I think they're just going to run the ball at us. They go all downhill," said Bulls safety Craig Rohlfs.
The Bulls, however, have some stats going for them as well. UB is first in the Mid-American Conference in pass defense, with a measly 132 yards allowed per game. Buffalo is third in the MAC in total defense.
"Not many teams have been able to pass the ball in intermediate routs," Rohlfs said.
Sophomore Derek Vickers, who threw for two touchdowns and 220 yards last week in the Chippewas' 52-28 loss to Toledo, quarterbacks for CMU.
Vickers is not just a passing threat, but a running threat as well.
"They have a very dynamic quarterback who can run, make you miss, so you really have to have a plan for him," Hofher said.
"[Vickers] can't just sit back in the pocket 'cause we're going to bat every ball down," said Rohlfs. "They do a lot of screens, a lot of [naked] boots."
Perhaps Central's most potent weapon is its special teams. Redshirt freshman James King has already blocked six punts this season in just three games. Two of his blocks have been returned for touchdowns.
"The guy had four punt blocks in one game. That will snap you to real fast," Hofher said. "He's excellent. He's an explosive guy. We definitely have to be aware of where he is."
On offense, Bulls senior quarterback Joe Freedy has earned the opportunity to start after a dominating game at Connecticut last week. It will be Freedy's 26th consecutive start for UB.
"Clearly, Joe played his best game of the season [last week]," Hofher said. "I don't know that we'll practice much differently, but our intent is that Joe is the starter and he has clearly earned that opportunity for his performance against Connecticut."
The Bulls will count on Freedy's arm early, using the pass to set up the run.
"Central Michigan lines up in a 4-4 defense; they stack up against the run," said Bulls offensive lineman Tim Hedges. "We're going to have to throw the ball. They attack a lot, so we'll have to get a big play here and there."
"Defensively, Central Michigan is very quick, and very aggressive in their calls," Hofher said. "They're not big, but they play big because of how aggressively they play."
"Hopefully we can get some big plays out of the passing game, challenge their man coverage," said Bulls running back Marquis Dwarte, who ran for 150 yards and three touchdowns against UConn. "Once they loosen up, go to a cover-two look, dropping back into a 4-3, then we should be able to run the ball."
The Bulls, who haven't played at home since a 31-15 loss to Rutgers on Aug. 30, are excited about the opportunity to show hometown fans how much they have improved in the last few weeks.
"We have great fans in Buffalo and would definitely like to give them something to cheer about at home," Hedges said. "We'd like to show them that we are going to compete every week."
The Bulls play the Chippewas tomorrow at 7 p.m. at UB Stadium.
Stop the run. Central's running game against Buffalo's defense will be the biggest key for both teams. Whoever wins this battle will likely win the game.
Block King. CMU's special-teams star can change a game with one play if you let him.
Use the pass to set up the run. For the Bulls, some quick outs, screens, and play-action passes will be the key to throwing the ball against the Chippewas' aggressive defense. If the Bulls can get CMU out of their attacking 4-4 set, they will be able to run.
Run hard and often. Again, the Central running game is the key; their huge o-line needs to dominate the line of scrimmage.
Blitz from everywhere. Buffalo has had a tough time picking up the blitz all season.
UB kicker Dallas Pelz earned MAC honors as the East Division's Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance last week against UConn. Pelz was perfect on field goals with three, and on extra points with four.
UB linebacker Lamar Wilcher is questionable for Saturday's game with a partially separated shoulder. Ryan Buttles started in his place last week at UConn, and will again this week if Wilcher can't.
Bulls offensive tackle Andy Avery was named the MAC Male Scholar Athlete of the Week. Avery carries a 3.77 grade point average, and has a double major in psychology and pre-med.
Buffalo has lost its last five night games.