UB moving forward after earning bowl eligibility

October 16, 2018 - 5:16 pm
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Over the summer and prior to the start of the season there was a lot of talk surrounding the UB Bulls football team. Much of the discussion was about the talented roster and NFL prospects; but that also led to talk about how far this team could go and what they could accomplish in 2018.

We’re now seven weeks in and at 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the conference the Bulls are having their best season since 1959, the last time they had a 6-1 record. The 2018 season is also on pace to be the Bulls’ best year since moving to the FBS in 1999.

With their win at home over Akron this past Saturday, the Bulls clinched bowl eligibility for only the fourth time since that inaugural FBS season.

It’s also the first time UB has earned a shot at postseason play two years in a row. However, this year is much different than the previous. This year it took the Bulls seven weeks to get to the six-win mark, the fastest in program history. Compare that to 2017, where UB had to win their last three games to end the season with six wins. And while they did exactly that, UB ended up being one of only three teams to be snubbed from a bowl game despite being eligible.

“I thought we were going last year,” Bulls head coach Lance Leipold said when asked about clinching a spot in a bowl game. “I say that cautiously because I told a group of young men with three games to go if they won out they have a chance to play in a bowl game, and I didn’t look very smart at the end of the year. So you want to make sure you don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Yes, to get to six and get those wins is important but we have a lot of football yet to play.”

While there is a lot of football left to play, UB sits in a spot they’ve never been in before. It could be hard for guys to not look ahead and think of the ‘what ifs’ when they’re having the type of season the Bulls have had so far. But for a team that hasn’t had this kind of success in the past, the Bulls have been taking this season in stride.

“I think the players have handled [our success] extremely well to this point,” Leipold said on the Howard and Jeremy show on Tuesday morning. “You look at the start we had and then we were knocked on our backsides against Army and that can keep you humble. It goes back to our core group of leaders; those guys have played a lot, some as true freshman. They also went through the 2-10 season and are mature enough now to understand those things.”

Along with talent and depth, Leipold and the coaching staff knew heading into 2018 they had a ton of upperclassmen leadership as well. Much of the Bulls core is made up of guys who have played a few seasons and gotten experience; and not just the experience of being on the field in a game, they’ve gone through winning and losing seasons. They’ve learned what it takes week-to-week and day-to-day to be a successful team.

“Trusting the process,” has been a slogan used by teams and fan bases in sports over the last few years, especially in Buffalo. But at UB, Lance Leipold’s tenure with the team and this group of players has been a process; one that after four years is showing positive results.

“It’s been exciting, it’s been positive and I’m really happy for our players,” Leipold said. I’m especially happy for the upperclassmen that have gone through a lot and continue to work hard and believe in one another and believe in the coaches and what we’re doing. Seeing all that work pay off, that’s how you build programs. We told some of the guys in the offseason they have a chance to be a really special group in a lot of ways and some of those ways are how they go about things daily. It’s really been fulfilling for us as a program to see this happen; and now we have to continue.”

While it did take a few years, this kind of success was the goal from the beginning for Leipold when he took the head-coaching job at UB. He still remembers his first conversation with the man who hired him, former UB Athletic Director, Danny White.

“His goal for the program and vision moving forward was to build a program that can consistently be in bowl games,” Leipold said. “With the amount of bowl opportunities that are now available for our conference we want to be able to be a consistent participant in those.”

With the success they’ve had this season, the future of the football program at UB does look brighter than it did in years past. It’s nice to sit back for a second and enjoy the run the Bulls have been on and appreciate the turnaround this program has made; but as coach Leipold said, there is still much left for the 2018 Bulls to accomplish and they have to keep moving forward.

That’s the only way we know how to do it,” Leipold said. “We have to try to get better this afternoon than we were yesterday if we’re going to have a chance to win on Saturday.”

The Bulls will head to Toledo, Ohio this weekend to face the defending MAC Champion Rockets. Kickoff on Saturday is scheduled for 12:00 P.M. You can hear the full game along with pregame and postgame coverage on ESPN 1520.

 

 

 

 

 

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