Next man up
Backups need to have big performances to take down Central Michigan
UB football won seven straight games before a 42-13 defeat to the Army Black Knights (3-2) on Saturday.
Buffalo (4-1, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) players and coaches have stressed a “next man up” mentality after the Army game. Star senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson barely saw action the past two weeks and redshirt freshman running back Kevin Marks went down with an injury against Army. Without their top receiver and leading rusher, members of Buffalo’s offense will have to step up against a stout Central Michigan Chippewas (1-4, 0-1 MAC) defense.
“We can’t let one loss lead to another one,” said head coach Lance Leipold in a press conference on Tuesday. “If we don’t win the game on Saturday, it is because Central Michigan is better than us.”
The Bulls face the best defense in the MAC by total yards allowed. Central Michigan has only allowed 336.4 yards per game and only 149 yards passing. UB’s junior quarterback Tyree Jackson has averaged 243 yards per game comparatively.
“These are going to be two of the best middle linebackers in the conference on the same field, [Hodge and Chippewa Malik Fountain]” Leipold said. “That should be exciting for both teams. It will be a challenge. It's a secondary that plays with great confidence and physicality.”
Expect to see more plays for sophomore wide receiver Antonio Nunn, redshirt freshman Charlie Jones and graduate transfer George Rushing. Leipold said he wants to get the tight ends more involved.
Johnson’s absence has led to the emergence of junior wide receiver K.J. Osborn. Osborn leads the team in receiving yards, touchdowns and receptions. Osborn currently averages 17.8 yards per catch.
“He’s extremely important especially when guys go down,” Leipold said. “With Anthony [Johnson] highly limited we have reduced his role as a return man because he is a very valuable person in this offense and program. He is a pretty complete wide receiver.”
The Bulls will have to utilize all their remaining weapons to beat Central Michigan Saturday at noon.
Nathaniel Mendelson is the sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NateMendelson