After a historic 2020 season that saw the Bulls secure a Camellia Bowl victory and the first AP Top 25 ranking in program history, UB football returns with a full 12-game schedule in 2021-22.
The Bulls will welcome back fans to UB Stadium for the first time in 640 days for Maurice Linguist’s head coaching debut against Football Championship Subdivision opponent Wagner Thursday night.
While last season’s UB squad played a shortened six-game, conference-only schedule due to COVID-19, Wagner’s entire 2020 fall season was canceled.
The Seahawks scheduled four games for a shortened Northeast Conference (NEC) spring 2021 season but only played in two, losing to Duquesne (17-0) and Bryant (27-7).
In a proverbial week one “tune-up” game for UB, Maurice Linguist will look to start his head coaching career on a winning path.
Here’s what to expect from Wagner Thursday night at UB Stadium:
Coach: Tom Masella, 44-68 (0-2 at Wagner), entering his second season
The last six seasons of Wagner football have been a challenge, to say the least.
Former head coach Jason Houghtaling was fired after accumulating a 16-40 record in five seasons with the Seahawks. Wagner hired Bryant defensive coordinator (and former Fairfield, Boston University, Central Connecticut and Fordham head coach) Tom Masella to take over the program in 2019. Masella finished 0-2 in his first season as head coach but brings with him over 30 years of collegiate coaching experience.
Running back Chris Collier scored Wagner’s only touchdown last season and ran for 83 yards over a two-game span.
The Seahawks never found stability at the quarterback position, with graduated Ryan Yost, junior DQ Vinson and sophomore LeShane Frazier all seeing time under center. Wagner averaged only 170 yards through the air in its two games last season.
On the other side of the ball, defensive end Titus Leo emerged as a star. The New York native recorded 15 total tackles and two sacks in just two games en route to first-team All-NEC honors and the NEC Defensive Player of the Year award. He was also a finalist for the Stats Perform FCS Buck Buchanan Award, presented annually to the best defensive player in the FCS.
While Leo was the only Seahawk to make the All-NEC team, safety Ahmad Lyons impressed in the secondary and generated the team’s only turnover, with an interception against Duquesne. Lyons has racked up three interceptions, six pass breakups and 27 total tackles during a two-year career at Wagner.
After posting a 1-13 record over the past two seasons, the Seahawks were picked to finish last in the 2021 NEC Coaches’ Poll.
Collier, now a senior, returns with a new partner in the backfield. Senior running back Messiah Divine transferred to Wagner from Rowan University (Glassboro, NJ) in June. Divine ran for 784 yards and three touchdowns in 2019 en route to All-New Jersey Athletic Conference Offensive first-team honors.
Georgia Southern transfer Jaalon Frazier steps in as the new quarterback for the Seahawks in 2021. The redshirt senior will look to capitalize on his dual-threat skillset with Wagner after sitting out the 2020 season.
Seniors Sowande McWhite, Xavier Brinson and Zef Djurasevic will all provide valuable experience on the offensive line. Graduate student Jeremiah Bolling-Farrar, who played right tackle last season, was selected by college football writer Phil Steele as a second-team All-NEC preseason selection.
Leo and Lyons — Wagner’s two captains heading into the 2021 campaign — will lead the Seahawks’ defense along with senior linebacker Tre Vallar and senior safety Naseem Barnett.
The Bulls are the far superior team in this matchup and should make quick work of Wagner Thursday night. UB is attempting to build upon a strong winning foundation while Wagner is attempting to establish one.
Thursday night’s matchup should give Linguist — along with offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery and defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen — the opportunity to experiment with schemes and lineups once a sizable lead is built.
The Bulls have a 12-1 all-time record against FCS opponents. Expect that number to jump to 13 in Linguist’s head coaching debut.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m.