Game preview: UB Bulls take on Nevada Wolf pack

Bulls look to defeat Nevada, move to 3-1 before conference play



That’s the last time the Buffalo football team achieved a 3-1 start to begin the regular season. That predates its arrival to the Mid-American Conference. It even predates the program’s return to Division I football.

And if Buffalo could repeat its outlandish defensive performance from last week, where it scored three defensive touchdowns, forced three fumbles and came up with enough interceptions to satisfy it’s total amount during the 2014 season, history could rewrite itself.

On Saturday, the Bulls (2-1) return home to UB Stadium Saturday with a chance to move to 3-1 under new head coach Lance Leipold and to take on Nevada (1-2). It will be the last non-conference game of the season for the Bulls, as they move to MAC play.

The Bulls are coming off an impressive, albeit mainly defensive, 33-15 victory over Florida Atlantic (0-3) this past weekend, as they scored 23 of their 33 points off of defensive scores. They also set a program record with the most takeaways in a game.

Despite the sizeable victory, Leipold said the team has great lengths to improve upon, especially on the offensive side of the ball as Buffalo threw for a mere 105 yards, while the Owls amassed 385 yards passing.

“There are some things there, we just have to get more consistent,” Leipold said. “We have to be able to click a little bit better and hopefully being back home will do that for us.”

Nevada is coming off back-to-back losses against No. 16 Arizona (3-0) and No. 14 Texas A&M (3-0). In both contests, the Wolf Pack has given up 44 points while scoring 20 and 27 points, respectively.

Leipold said even though these scores seem quite lopsided, the Bulls wouldn’t take Nevada lightly before conference play.

“You have to look at the teams they’ve played. Those are pretty impressive football teams that they’ve played,” Leipold said. “[Nevada] uses the zone-read game. They’re creative offensively. It’s going to be a big test for us, defensively.”

Although the Bulls are coming off a dominant, defensive victory, the unit is nowhere near perfect. During the past three games, UB has allowed nearly as many yards rushing per game (148.7) as they have gained themselves (155.3). Through the air, the Bulls have given up more yards passing (641) than they’ve gained this season (565).

Nevada’s rushing attack averages 4.9 yards per rush and 200 yards per game. The Wolf Pack’s passing game is where the team lacks offensively, as they’ve amassed only 528 yards.

Leipold still holds exuberant optimism for his defense, though, as he pointed out the play of junior linebacker Brandon Berry as someone who “matured and taken his game up a notch” and senior Nick Gilbo for being a leader in a solid defensive performance.

If the Bulls want to win Saturday’s game, Leipold said everything “is going to need to come together.”

“You’re always waiting for that perfect game and for all things to come together if we’re going to take that next step,” Leipold said.

There’s will be a few former UB football affiliates on the Nevada sideline Saturday. Wolf Pack head coach Brian Polian was part of the Buffalo coaching staff in 1998 and from 2001-2003. Jim Hofher, Nevada’s wide receiver’s coach, was a former Buffalo head coach from 2001-2005. Steven King, a graduate assistant on Nevada’s coaching staff, held down the running back position for Buffalo before current Green Bay Packers running back James Starks assumed the role.

Heading into Saturday’s game, there could be extra motivation from Nevada to get a win against Buffalo.

“I don’t think it paints a target on our back,” Leipold said, “but there’s going to be some extra emotion from them. At the end of the day it’s still going to be what’s done between the lines.”

Kickoff is set for Saturday at 3:30 pm.

Reuben Wolf is a sports staff writer. Sports desk can be reached