Another Saturday meant another loss for UB football.
The Bulls were blown out by Liberty, 55-27, and now sit at 0-3 three weeks into the season for the second straight year.
After the team showed a lot of promise in a scrappy 38-17 season-opening loss at No. 19 Wisconsin, things have taken a turn for the worse in the two home games to follow.
The Bulls were three-point underdogs heading into Saturday’s matchup against the Flames, but a 28-point blowout proved to be another underwhelming showing by UB.
Despite hauling in the Mid-American Conference’s top-ranked overall recruiting class in each of the past two seasons, third-year head coach Maurice Linguist has failed to re-establish UB as a MAC powerhouse during his time in Buffalo.
So, the question every UB fan is asking: What’s wrong with this year’s Bulls team?
Here are the glaring issues that have held the Bulls back so far this season:
Issues in the Secondary
Through three games, the Bulls’ defense has allowed 842 passing yards and 11 passing touchdowns. Those numbers are even worse in the past two games, as both Fordham and Liberty’s quarterbacks each threw for over 300 yards and five touchdowns against the UB secondary.
Many contested catches were made by Fordham receivers on 50/50 balls thrown up by sophomore quarterback CJ Montes in UB’s 40-37 Week 2 loss against the Rams.
However, in this week’s drubbing at the hands of Liberty, the Flames had receivers open all over the field, leading to multiple big-play touchdowns. Three Liberty receivers had 99 or more receiving yards in the game.
“Certain things should not happen when you’re in certain coverages, and if they do, why do they happen?” Bulls head coach Maurice Linguist said following Saturday’s game. “We’re in cover 2 and it’s 3rd and 10, and we had a long pass that occurred; that shouldn’t happen. I gotta look at how it happened and why it happened.”
Things will need to change fast, as next week the Bulls face a Louisiana team that’s thrown for over 500 yards and five touchdowns in its first two games.
Run game drop-off
UB has been unable to get any momentum going in the running game so far this season. In 2022, the Bulls averaged 142 yards per game on the ground. This year, the team is averaging just 102.
With so many new faces in the wide receiver room, the Bulls needed to depend on the ground game to keep the offense two-dimensional.
“We just need to start fast honestly. I feel like we came out a little flat,” sophomore running back Mike Washington Jr. said after rushing for only 40 yards against Liberty.
Washington Jr. and fifth-year running back Ron Cook Jr. have both failed to surpass 60 yards in a game so far this season.
Disappearance of 2022 stars
The Bulls lost some veteran leadership heading into the season with the graduation of wide receivers Justin Marshall and Quian Williams, as well as longtime linebacker James Patterson.
But still, two defensive stalwarts remain on the roster in graduate safety Marcus Fuqua and senior linebacker Shaun Dolac.
Both players led the nation last year in major defensive categories, with Fuqua finishing with seven interceptions and Dolac racking up 97 solo tackles. Through three games in 2023, Fuqua has yet to record an interception, and Dolac has just 12 solo tackles, putting him on pace to finish with half of his 2022 total (48).
UB urgently needs its two defensive standouts to show up in a big way after surrendering 133 points through the first three games.
There’s still time for the Bulls to right the ship — a similar 0-3 start in 2022 ended in a 7-6 record and a bowl game victory.
If the Bulls can salvage their season, they’ll have to start with a win against Louisiana at Cajun Field in Week 4.
Brandon Cochi is the sports desk editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org