Paul Peck’s Bull Session: Kent State

Paul Peck's Bull Session

Each week, Voice of Bulls Football Paul Peck will preview the upcoming game. 

Buffalo (1-3, 0-0 MAC) vs. Kent State (1-4, 0-1 MAC)  

Weather's good.  Roads are clear.  GPS working.  So for the first time in four years, we'll get a UB-Kent State MAC East showdown in Buffalo.  The Golden Flashes shouldn't have any trouble getting here this time for this crucial MAC opener for the Bulls.  I'm sure most Bulls fans haven't forgotten what happened two years ago, when the Snowvember Storm of 2014 forced the cancellation of the Bulls-Golden Flashes game because the Kent State equipment truck got stuck in six feet of snow in Lackawanna. (Kent State has since switched equipment delivery companies).  It deprived the Bulls of a .500 season and forced the Flashes players to spend four days in Buffalo without playing a game.  Maybe snow brushes or old-fashioned foldable road maps would be a good giveaway for Homecoming 2016.

Bull Session Trivia:  Last Saturday, Kent State quarterback Nick Holley had 285 yards passing and 117 yards rushing.  He's the first Golden Flashes QB to have a game of 100+ yards passing & rushing since 2008.  Can you name the last Kent State signal caller to have a game like that?  Hint:  It has a UB connection and you definitely know the name. 

Bullseye on:  Buffalo Offense  

After an inconsistent first four games, the Bulls offense gets to measure themselves against a team with an equal level of talent.  That will give us all a better evaluation of the progress made by quarterback Tyree Jackson.  He won't be facing the NCAA's #1 defense like he did against Boston College.  While Kent State's defense is one of the MAC's best, Jackson should look much more like the player he was against Army than the one he was against BC or Nevada....The Eagles took away Jackson's running, holding him to just three carries and minus-two yards.  Jacksons' ability to move and gain yards on the ground-from designed plays or broken ones-figures to be a much bigger part of the Bulls offense....Same goes for Jordan Johnson, who's been held to just 30 yards in the last two games.  He's had just 17 carries in those games.  Getting him more touches and more yards will be a key in MAC play...With Tyler O'Henly missing last week's game, the Bulls used two plans of replacement.  Albert McCoy replaced him at right tackle to start.  But later, right guard David Goldsby (a junior college tackle) moved to right tackle with freshman Tomas Jack-Kurdyla playing right guard...Kent State features two of the MAC's best defenders.  Defensive end Terence Waugh leads the league in sacks with six.  He often lines up on the edge, and will test the Bulls offensive tackles. Waugh also has nine tackles for loss, indicating that he's also good against the run …Safety Nate Holley leads the MAC in tackles with 73.  He is the FBS active leader in career tackles with 388.  The Golden Flashes will use Holley all over the field.  His tackles usually come sideline to sideline......The Golden Flashes other top player and 2015 All-MAC performer has been hurt.  Cornerback Demetrius Monday is listed as questionable.  He's missed the last three games.  Last season, Monday has six interceptions, including one against UB that he returned for a touchdown…Kent State plays a base 4-2-5 defense.  What they call their Apache position is basically a cornerback who covers the slot receiver…While some of KSU's stats are skewed by having played Penn State and Alabama, they are 4th in the MAC in pass defense….The Golden Flashes have five interceptions and 13 sacks in the first five games.

Bullseye on:  Buffalo Defense  

Defense is emerging as the strongest unit on this year's Bulls team.  That was once again on display last week against Boston College.  The Bulls continually put pressure on the Eagles, with 10 tackles for loss and two sacks.  16 Bulls have a TFL this season…The Bulls have their own tackling machine.  With 10 more stops against BC, Khalil Hodge now has 49 through the first four games.  His average of 12.3 per game ranks third in the nation…That total is good for 2nd in the MAC.  Fellow Bulls linebacker Ishmael Hargrove is fifth, and Jarett Franklin ranks 7th.  Hargrove leads the MAC with two fumble recoveries, and he's second with two forced fumbles. The junior from Cleveland says his success is due to being "physically stronger and having a better understanding of the defense."  That's allowed Hargrove to play faster.  Being from Cleveland, Hargrove knows and has played against many of the Kent State players…Dev Lamour made his season debut, seeing some snaps at safety.  Lamour had won the job in the preseason, but then suffered a hamstring injury.  The redshirt freshman from Montreal brings speed and length to the position…After losing two starting quarterbacks to injury, the KSU coaches made a dramatic decision and moved wide receiver Nick Holley to the QB position.  He debuted against Akron, his first snaps since high school.  Holley was a revelation, with the impressive stats I mentioned in the trivia question. Many of those game on short passes and option runs.  Holley led the Flashes with 34 carries against the Zips.  Bulls coach Lance Leipold said some of Holley's success came from the surprise factor.  But he noted that success was from a simplified game plan, and Leipold expects Holley to have a much larger understanding of the offense for this game.  The Bulls head coach was impressed with Holley's football savvy and competitiveness.  Holley's 402 yards of combined offense was the most by a Kent State quarterback since Josh Cribbs…Holley's main weapon on offense is running back Justin Rankin. He leads the team in rushing and receiving.  Against Akron, Rankin had 10 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown.  The freshman from Ohio is quick, fast and solidly built at 5-9, 206 pounds.  After seeing his receiving numbers, I wondered if he played like former KSU star Dri Archer.  Word is Rankin isn't as fast, but has a thicker balance.  Kent State folks says his balance and ability to bounce off hits is what makes him so dangerous…The Flashes will run a lot of jet sweeps.  Receiver Kavious Price has carried the ball on jet sweeps 10 times, and is averaging over seven yards per carry.

Bullseye on:  MAC Quarterbacks

The start of the MAC schedule for UB is a chance to check in on the quarterback position around the conference.  Simply put, many MAC teams are searching for the right man at the game's most important position.  As noted above, Kent State is now using a wide receiver to be their 3rd starting QB of the season, and the 3rd different KSU quarterback UB has seen in the last two years.  The Bulls are on their second starter.  Bowling Green has moved onto their second starter, as James Morgan has replaced James Knapke. Miami's starter Billy Bahl was hurt last week, and replaced by freshman Noah Wezensky, who will start this week.  Akron's outstanding QB Thomas Woodson missed last week's game with a shoulder injury, and was replaced by Tre'Von Chapman.  Ohio has used two signal callers, but has the most stability with Greg Windham.  In the MAC West, North Illinois has started three different players, with top QB Drew Hare out and injured.  Eastern Michigan has used two quarterbacks in their 4-1 start.  Western Michigan (Zach Terrell), Toledo (Logan Woodside), Central Michigan (Cooper Rush) and Ball State (Riley Neal) have been stable.  That's a good reason why those teams are a combined 14-5.

Bull Session Trivia Answer:  Current New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman had 167 yards rushing and 114 yards passing in a 24-21 win over the Bulls at UB Stadium on November 28, 2008.  It was the week after the Bulls clinched the MAC East title.  A few months later, Edelman would be drafted by New England

Please join me, color analyst Jim Kubiak, sideline reporter Scott Wilson, game host Brad Riter and postgame host Bob Gaughan for the broadcast on the Bulls Football Network.  Our pregame show starts at 2:30pm.  You can hear it in Buffalo on ESPN 1520 (www.espn1520.com).  A link to the online broadcast is also available at http://www.ubbulls.com/video/test-live2.