In this series we will look at the Black Knights football opponents for the 2016 season. Today the school we are looking at is UTEP.
Date/time/location/TV: September 24, UB Stadium, Buffalo N.Y., Time and TV TBA.
2015 Record: 5-7 (3-5 MAC). No Bowl Game.
Head Coach: Lance Leipold. Second year at Buffalo (5-7).
Series History: Army leads the series 2-0.
Last Meeting: Army beat Buffalo in the opening game of the 2014 season. It was the first game of the Jeff Monken coaching era and the Black Knights won the game 47-39 in West Point.
Top Returners: RB Jordan Johnson (Sr.) 811 yards rushing and 12 TDs in 2015. RT Robert Blodgett, 21 career starts. DE Brandon Crawford (Sr.) 26.5 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, and 2 sacks in 2015. LB Brandon Berry (Sr.) 82.5 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, and 1 sack in 2015.
Key Losses: QB Joe Licata, 2,969 yards and 16 TDs in 2015. WR Ron Willoughby and TE Matt Weiser, Combined for 105 catches in 2015. LT John Kling, 2015 2nd Team All-MAC. LB Nick Gilbo, 90 tackles, 12 TFLs, and 3.5 sacks in 2015.
What You Need To Know: A 5-7 opening year might not be labelled as a success everywhere in the FBS, but at Buffalo the first season at head coach from Lance Leipold went down as a very good one. Leipold acquitted himself well after making the huge step up from coaching at D3 (very successfully) and now he has steadied the ship he is tasked with turning Buffalo into a major player in the MAC over the next few seasons.
The first major step for Leipold will be finding a quarterback. The Bulls returners at the position threw exactly one pass in 2015 and departing four-year starter Joe Licata owns every record that matters in school history at the position. The inside track seemed to belong to sophomore Chris Merchant, but then he transferred to play back home in Canada. Now, with weeks to go until the season begins, it is still a toss-up between graduate transfer (Iowa State) Grant Rohach and red-shirt freshman Tyree Jackson.
The offense is going to need some players to step up and replace key cogs from last season. Jordan Johnson is an exciting running back, who is limited by his fumbling problems, while big things are expected from senior wide receiver Marcus McGill. Buffalo also uses the tight end more than most college teams so expect short passes over the middle when the quarterback is in trouble.
Defensively the Bulls have more pieces to replace. Two big time linebackers have departed in Nick Gilbo and Okezie Alozie. The unit is still the strength of the defense however with returning All-MAC selection Brandon Berry being a key playmaker that Army will have to key in on. The Bulls also have a pair of attacking, in the box style safeties in Ryan Williamson (83 tackles) and Andrews Dadeboe.
2015 Stats That Matter: Defensive points per game 72nd; Offensive points per game 82nd.
Fun Fact: The University of Buffalo is the largest university in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with around 30,000 students.
Famous Alumni: Samuel R. Delaney (Critic), Robin Li (Entrepreneur), Chris Kanyon (Wrestler).