UB eyes 4-0 start against Rutgers

September 21, 2018 - 2:04 pm
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To this point, much of the 2018 UB football season has been about making history. On Saturday the team will have a chance to make more history when they take on Rutgers University from Piscataway, N.J.

With a win over the Scarlet Knights, the Bulls would be 4-0 for the first time since 1981. A victory would also give Buffalo their first win ever against a Big Ten opponent.

The Bulls head to New Jersey with a lot of confidence following their 35-28 win over the previously undefeated Eastern Michigan last Saturday at UB Stadium. UB is also currently tied with Duke for the fourth longest win-streak in the country; the Bulls have won their last six games dating back to last year.

Rutgers will return home following a lopsided 55-14 loss on the road to the Kansas Jayhawks last week. The Scarlet Knights are off to a 1-2 start in 2018, but their lone win did come at home.

“They’re a Big Ten University,” Bulls head coach Lance Leipold said on Tuesday at the team press conference. “They’re a team that had a convincing win week one. There are ups and downs when you go through growing pains but they’re going to be back at home, where they play well. Looking at their body of work, we know they’re going to be ready to go. This is a game where they want to get themselves back in stride as they get closer to the conference season. We just have to work on what we need to get better at.”

UB’s offense should be able to put up some points on Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have given up 50+ points in back-to-back games and are ranked 119th in total defense in the FBS.

The Bulls offense has been the team’s strongest group so far this season; they’ve scored 35 or more points in each of their first three games for the first time in program history.

A lot of the Bulls’ offensive success stems from quarterback Tyree Jackson’s incredible start. The junior’s 12 touchdown passes tie him for second in the nation and are the most through three games in UB’s history.

While Jackson has been impressive himself, the offense as a whole has been clicking. Wide receivers Anthony Johnson and K.J. Osborn have turned in great performances over the last two weeks and while Leipold has still yet to name an official starting running back, redshirt freshman Kevin Marks has emerged as the possible favorite to win the job. Marks has scored four touchdowns over the last two games.

“I think there are a lot of things that go into us being successful so far offensively,” Leipold said. “You mention the offensive line, rarely do they get mentioned, and they’ve done a nice job protecting well. Going back to the first game of the year, post game we really weren’t too happy with how we ran the ball, we had a lot of unconventional looks in that game but these last two games we’ve run the ball better. I think Tyree has done an excellent job. When your quarterback is confident and has experience and understands defenses and schemes, he’s getting rid of the ball quickly and doing good things. Everything has to tie together for us to be the team we want to be. We always want to be balanced.”

The offensive line may very well be that x-factor for the Bulls offense. UB is one of only three teams (UCF and North Carolina) in all of the FBS to not let up a sack this season. Out of those three teams, the Bulls are the only one to have played three games so far this year.

UB’s defense will look to try and regain some consistency against Rutgers. Despite being 3-0 and playing solid at most times the Bulls defense will go through spurts where they give up some points and big plays. Last Saturday against Eastern it was the second quarter, against Temple it was most of the second half. If the Bulls are to have a shot at winning this game, they’ll need the defense’s strongest showing to date.

In the last two games we’ve seen the player wearing the no. 41 jersey turn in a standout performance. Leipold hasn’t announced who’ll wear the jersey this Saturday, but whoever does will have the chance to follow the efforts turned in from Cam Lewis and Chuck Harris in weeks two and three respectively.

Despite being 0-8 against the Big Ten conference, the Bulls are betting favorites on Saturday.

“It’s nice to see we’re gaining some respect as we go through it, and these guys have worked hard for that,” Leipold said. “We anticipated a 60-minute, close game against Temple, which went down to the last minute.  We expected a 60-minute game against Eastern, and there was an onside kick we recovered to seal the win. Now, we expect a 60-minute game when we go to Rutgers and it’ll be our job to make sure it’s a 60-minute game.”

As mentioned, the story of this season so far has been UB making history. With a win over Rutgers, the Bulls would have two non-conference road victories in the same season for the first time since moving to the FBS in 1999. It’d be quite a feat for the Bulls to get that win in a power-five conference team’s stadium.

“I think there is some excitement,” K.J. Osborn said. “Playing a Big Ten team, we come in with a chip on our shoulder. We’re not going to pass up our opportunity. We’re going to prepare just like we’re playing any other team. We’re going to go out and work hard in practice and do what we do.”

After the win over Temple, UB ran around the field with a MAC Jolly Roger-themed flag as part of the Mid American Conference’s ‘fly the flag’ campaign when MAC teams win out of conference games.

“We take great pride in it,” Osborn said on flying the flag. “To be able to beat a non-conference team and fly the flag is very exciting. At Temple we were flying it around and we loved it. It brings a sense of pride to show the MAC is a good conference and we have good teams.”

Kickoff on Saturday is scheduled for 12:00pm. You can listen to the full game along with pregame and postgame coverage on ESPN 1520. The game will also be available on Big Ten Network.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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