UB Bulls vs. Bowling Green game preview

Buffalo starts 'second season' with first MAC game


For the Buffalo football team, the road to Detroit begins Saturday.

The Bulls’ (2­-2) losses to Penn State and Nevada won’t count against them. Their impressive wins against Albany and Florida Atlantic don’t matter either.

Almost every team in the Mid­-American Conference, including Buffalo, has a 0-0 record when it comes to the discussion of who will play in the MAC Championship game in Detroit, Michigan this December.

The Bulls face Bowling Green Falcons (2-2) at UB Stadium Saturday in what will be their first of eight conference games.

Head coach Lance Leipold said the game starts a “second season” for the Bulls. “Win or lose, it would still be starting a second season at 0­-0, so to speak,” Leipold said. “Now it’s exciting because we get to see where we’re at against some of the best teams in our conference, we get to continue to evaluate as coaches and see what we need for the future if we want to be competitive.”

The Bulls are coming off a 24­-21 loss to Nevada (2-2) last week at home. While the score was close, the Wolf Pack exploited some of Buffalo’s issues, particularly in the run game. The Bulls allowed Nevada to run for 202 rushing yards in the first half and 289 for the entire game, including two runs of more than 50 yards.

It doesn’t get much easier for the Bulls with Bowling Green and its 1-2 running back duo of Travis Greene and Fred Coppet coming into UB Stadium.

Both Falcon running backs have ran for more than 220 yards and average more than 4.6 yards a carry. Buffalo’s trio of linebackers – seniors Nick Gilbo and Okezie Alozie and junior Brandon Berry – will need a big game once again to contain Greene and Coppet.

The Falcons’ passing attack is equally as dangerous, thanks in part to senior quarterback Matt Johnson.

After missing all but one game last season due to a hip injury, Johnson leads the nation in passing yards with 1,760. Five hundred and fifty-nine of those yards have gone to sophomore wide receiver Roger Lewis, which ranks him fourth in the nation.

It’s that combination that gives the Falcons another one-two punch that will be tough for Buffalo to stop.

“They’re very talented, very explosive at what they do,” Leipold said. “If you judge them against Power 5 conference opponents, they’re still getting behind people … when things aren’t there, [Johnson is] able to make plays with his legs … its another big challenge for us up front.”

It will be up to junior cornerback Boise Ross to contain Lewis. Ross ranks first in the nation in pass breakups with 10.

Buffalo and Bowling Green have a history as well.

The Falcons defeated perhaps the most talented Buffalo team ever in 2013, ending the Bulls’ chance of going to the MAC Championship game. Last year, Bowling Green defeated Buffalo by just one point, 36-35, in part due to a late missed field goal by Buffalo that would have given the Bulls an 8-point lead. Four plays and 80 yards later, the Falcons found the end zone to take the lead for good. One loss later, Athletic Director Danny White fired former head coach Jeff Quinn.

The loss stung and stayed with the returning players and Leipold said the seniors are looking for revenge.

“You can see why they’re one of the favorites in our conference,” Leipold said. “They have the skill players and the quarterback to make it work. But we’re a team with some hungry seniors. Last year was a ball game that didn’t go our way and it didn’t sit with our players.”

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

Quentin Haynes is the senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on twitter at @Haynes_Spectrum