Each week, Voice of Bulls Football Paul Peck will preview the upcoming game.
Buffalo (2-7, 1-4 MAC) vs. Miami (4-6, 4-2 MAC)
The final home game of the season means Senior Day. The Bulls will honor 18 members of the senior class in a pregame ceremony. This year's class is an interesting mix of players who have seen and done a lot in their UB career.
Seniors like Boise Ross and Brandon Crawford played key roles as freshman on the 2013 Bulls team that went to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. They have been outstanding players and leaders since then. Jordan Johnson battled injuries early, had to fight for playing time, but will end up as one of the school's all-time great running backs. Marcus McGill played as a freshman…as the long snapper. Then he emerged as a quality wide receiver, his natural position. Mason Schreck transitioned from high school quarterback, watched and learned from Matt Weiser, and now is one of the nation's top tight ends.
Remember, this senior class also went through a coaching change, never an easy transition.
All Bulls fans should salute this group of 18 players, and we thank them for the thrills and excitement they gave us over the last four years.
Bull Session Trivia: The Bulls have won four straight against the Red Hawks. In those four wins, UB has had five 100 yard rushing performances by three different Bulls running backs. Can you name the three Bulls who have topped the century mark during the winning streak?
Bullseye on: Buffalo Offense
In the loss to Ohio, Tyree Jackson threw for 302 yards, his second career 300 yard passing game. No UB freshman quarterback has ever done that. Jackson now holds the school's freshman quarterback passing record, with 1,676 yards…Jackson has moved up to 9th in the MAC's passing rankings…He has played a big role in a Bulls offense that is making some progress. In the last five games, the offense is averaging 420 total yards. That's 127 more than it averaged in the first four games…Unfortunately, scoring has not come with the increase in yards. At 17.2 points per game, the Bulls rank last in the MAC in scoring and second to last in the nation…After his record-setting 282 yard effort against Akron, Jordan Johnson was the focus of the Ohio defense. They held him to 59 yards, although with the Bulls early deficit, he did not get many chances. Johnson is 44 yards from 2,000 in his career, and 106 from passing O.D. Underwood for 6th in school history…Mason Schreck's 7 catches for 120 yards, including the amazing 75 yard catch and run, means the Bulls have had a tight end go over 100 yards receiving in a game two years in a row. Matt Weiser did it last year against Nevada. In this era of spread offenses focused on wide receivers, that's a significant achievement…Schreck is 92 yards away from 1,000 in his career…This week, the Bulls offense faces another tough test because Miami's defense ranks #1 in the MAC. They are #2 against the run, and #5 against the pass. They lead the MAC with 12 interceptions and they're second with 23 sacks….In the four game winning streak that has turned around their season, the Red Hawks have cut their points allowed (29 to 18) and their rushing yards allowed (156 to 75). They have allowed only two 100 yard rushers, and those came in game one and game three…Last week, they rattled Central Michigan's Cooper Rush. The outstanding MAC QB was sacked three times, threw an interception and no touchdown passes…The Red Hawks best defensive player is DE JT Jones. His 6.5 sacks are third in the MAC. He has 24.5 sacks in his Miami career…Interesting note about the other defensive end. Austin Gearing is a converted quarterback. He started at QB against UB in 2013. Khalil Mack sacked him three times in that game, and forced three fumbles. But now, Gearing does the sacking. He has 4 this year…Linebackers De'Andre Montgomery and Junior McMullen are active tacklers and playmakers. They have combined for three interceptions and 5.5 sacks…The Red Hawks balanced defense has four players with at least three sacks, and six players with an interception.
Bullseye on: Buffalo Defense
Against Ohio, the Bulls run defense continued to show improvement. They allowed 156 yards, about 100 yards under their per-game average. The longest run allowed was 22 yards. Ohio's best running back was hurt, and their quarterback was not a big running threat. But the Bulls run D is showing signs of life, even if the ranking is still last in the MAC and 123rd in the NCAA…Despite giving up the 73 yard touchdown on the first play, the Bulls pass defense continues to lead the MAC and rank 6th in the NCAA. Only three times has a team thrown for more than 200 yards…The season-ending injury to DT Max Perisse means more playing time for sophomore DT Corey Henderson. He had two tackles against the Bobcats…Even though he had "only" five tackles, LB Khalil Hodge continues to rank 2nd in the MAC and 5th in the nation in tackles. He's just two shy of 100 for the season…Miami's offensive stats also need to be told in two chapters. In their 0-6 start, they averaged 17 points per game and 99 yards rushing. In their recent four game winning streak, the points average is up to 31 and the rushing yards to 185…The simplest explanation? The insertion of QB Gus Ragland into the lineup. He tore his ACL at spring practice in April. But amazingly, he was back on the field in six months. Since becoming the Red Hawks third starting QB of the season he is 4-0 with 10 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, while throwing for 200 yards a game. Actually, Ragland has never thrown an interception in a career spanning two seasons and 129 passes….Ragland is a gritty, hard-nosed quarterback who will run when needed. He had a season-high 60 yards rushing against Central Michigan…The rushing attack has been a big key to Miami's winning streak. They do it with Ragland, and a collection of running backs. Alonzo Smith is a 225 pound bruiser who leads the team in carries. Kenny Young is a 196 pound speedster who is the breakaway threat. Maurice Thomas is a player who will be used on jet sweeps and end arounds….Young's big play abilities have been on display during the winning streak. He has had a 55 yard catch, a 62 yard run, a 54 yard run and a 72 yard run in the last four games…Leading receiver James Gardner missed the last two games, and his status for UB is uncertain. It's a receiver by committee for Miami, as four players have at least 15 catches…Tight end Ryan Smith's four TD catches are just one behind Gardner, team leader with five….During the winning streak, the Red Hawks have been excellent in the red zone. They have scored 12 TD on their last 15 trips inside the 20 yard line.
Bullseye on: True Freshman Bulls
Last week at Ohio, a true freshman led the Bulls in tackles. Matt Otwinowski had seven, in the best game of his career. Matt is one of four true freshman to see the field this season for the Bulls. Otwinowski has been the backup to middle linebacker Khalil Hodge. He has totaled 2 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.
"He's been a pleasant surprise from the first day," said Head Coach Lance Leipold, "Matt is passionate, studies hard and asks questions. He has a huge upside."
The other true freshman to play this year are guard Tomas Jack-Kurdyla, kicker Taylor Sheets and linebacker Justin Mulbah. Kurdyla has started the last five games since David Goldsby was moved from right guard to right tackle due to the injury of Tyler O'Henly. He has showed that he can be a key part of the line moving forward. Sheets did not win the punting job, but he has kicked off 18 times and has the Bulls only three touchbacks. Mulbah has played three games on special teams.
Leipold said he was hoping to play fewer than those four true freshman. He would like to redshirt as many true freshman as he can.
Bull Session Trivia Answer: Branden Oliver, Anthone Taylor and Jordan Johnson have each topped 100 yards rushing in the Bulls four game winning streak against the Red Hawks. In 2012, Oliver had 199 yards. In 2013, Taylor had 154 yards while Oliver finished with 150 yards. In 2014, it was Taylor who gained 222 yards. Last year, Johnson had 123 yards.
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 12:00pm. 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.