UB Bulls vs. Nevada: Who has the edge?
Coming off consecutive road games, Bulls return home to face Nevada
The football team (2-1) recovered after a loss to Penn State (2-1) to defeat Florida Atlantic (0-3) 33-15, with 23 points coming off of defensive scores.
Now, the Bulls head back home to face Nevada (1-2) from the Mountain West Conference after two weeks of away games. Can the Bulls pull out the victory at home and move to 3-1 before heading into Mid-American Conference play?
The Spectrum decided which team has the edge at each position.
Even after last week’s clunker by senior Joe Licata, the Bulls have the clear advantage at quarterback. The Wolf Pack have junior Tyler Stewart, whose thrown 118 passes in his three-year career.
Licata struggled last game, as he completed 50 percent of his passes with zero touchdown passes and an interception against a lackluster Florida Atlantic defense. A return to Buffalo should allow him to find his groove again.
Running backs: Nevada
This was almost a draw.
On Buffalo’s side, senior Anthone Taylor and junior Jordan Johnson form a one-two punch for the Bulls. Against Florida Atlantic, the duo picked up the slack after Licata struggled. Taylor finished with 116 yards on the ground, while Johnson had 66 yards and a rushing touchdown.
Nevada has a duo of Don Jackson and James Butler. Both had solid seasons last year and are continuing their pace this year, as both have totaled more than 200 rushing yards and have the exact same yard per rush total at 5.1 this season.
Wide receivers and tight ends: Buffalo
I’ll always take quantity over quality.
Nevada has two receivers – Hasaan Henderson and Jerico Richardson – that have combined for 32 catches and three touchdowns. The remaining Nevada receivers have totaled just 15 catches and only four of those from the other wide receivers.
The Bulls have senior Ron Willoughby as the leader of the group, but Buffalo’s cast of skill players extends further. Marcus McGill has made some tough catches in three games, sophomores Collin Lisa and Jacob Martinez have big play potential and tight ends Mason Schreck and Matt Weiser give Licata two reliable pass catchers on short to intermediate plays.
Offensive Line: Buffalo
Both teams are in the same bracket in terms of sacks allowed this season. The Bulls recovered after allowing seven sacks against Penn State to not give up any against Florida Atlantic last week.
Nevada has a solid offensive line, good enough to open holes for two decent running backs. The Wolf Pack allowed one more sack on the season (8) than the Bulls (7) have at this point, so a slight edge to Buffalo in the offensive line department.
Defensive Line: Nevada
Both teams have dealt with issues on their defensive lines to start the season, but the edge here has to go to Nevada because of its experience.
The Wolf Pack returns several players on a defensive line that created 25 sacks last season. Senior defensive end Ian Seau – nephew of NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau – has two sacks on the season after totaled 8.5 sacks last season.
The Bulls improved from training camp and shined against Florida Atlantic, but they have to continue to show consistency and can start here with another solid performance against two good Nevada running backs.
The Bulls have the clear edge here.
One of the highlights of the young season is the play of the Buffalo’s young linebacker core. Seniors Nick Gilbo and Okezie Alozie have been stout in both run defense and pass coverage, while junior Brandon Berry has been active in the backfield with four tackles for losses to start the season.
The linebacker group continues to do a good job of making plays on the ball as well, as their three starters have combined for 11 tackles for losses, 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles on the year.
The Bulls enter as the better secondary. Junior cornerback Boise Ross leads the nation in passes defended (8) and already has two interceptions on the season. Sophomore safety Ryan Williamson gives the Bulls another playmaker in the secondary. He has one interception and a forced fumble on the year.
On the year, the Wolf Pack has just one interception and rank 107th in college football with 809 passing yards allowed, albeit against two elite opponents.
If it’s merely head coaching resume, you can technically give it to Leipold for his impressive resume on the Division-III level and his current 2-1 start at the Division-I level.
But Nevada head coach Brian Polian has quite the background. He had a 7-6 season last season as leader of the Wolf Pack, and before that he had stops at Texas A&M, Stanford, Notre Dame, UCF, Buffalo, Baylor and Michigan State. He’s well traveled and has history of coaching in the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl.
To make the coaching matchup more interesting, three former Buffalo players will grace the opposing sideline at UB Stadium on Saturday.
Quentin Haynes is the senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @Haynes_Spectrum.