From The Other Side: Buffalo

Each week, will dig deeper into the opponent by interviewing a media member from the opposing team. This week Tom Dinki, from the UB Spectrum, helps us learn more about Buffalo.

Each week, will dig deeper into the opponent by interviewing a media member from the opposing team. This week Tom Dinki, from the UB Spectrum, helps us learn more about Buffalo. The Spectrum is the independent student newspaper for the University of Buffalo, and Tom is in his first year as Senior Sports Editor.

--- Joe Licata has returned for his Junior year. How has he looked in the Bulls first two games?

Licata has thrown four interceptions through two games after throwing eight all of last season, but that’s partly because Buffalo has asked him to do more this season.

Last season, he could manage games while relying on veteran wide receivers and the running game of Branden Oliver. This season, he is the leader of the offense and easily Buffalo’s best player on either side of the ball.

With the state of Buffalo’s defense, Licata is throwing the ball a lot more. That might lead to more turnovers, but it will also lead to more production. He threw a career-high five touchdown passes last week against Army.

Except for the first half of Buffalo’s game against Army last week, Licata has looked like a potential All Mid-American Conference team player and a quarterback who has taken steps forward in his game.

--- The Bulls fell behind early to Army, and had a furious comeback fall short. How do you see this loss affecting the team heading in to Friday nights matchup against Baylor?

Cutting away at such a large deficit could be a moral boost for some teams, but I think last week’s loss against Army is a confidence shaker for Buffalo. The Bulls fell behind 47-17, and it was a combination of “garbage time” touchdowns and a few lucky bounces that made the game look close.

Army exposed holes in Buffalo’s run defense with their triple-option attack, a week after FCS Duquesne exposed Buffalo’s secondary.

--- Besides Licata, who should Bear fans look out for on the offensive side of the ball on Friday night? Who should they look out for on the defensive side of the ball?

The wide receiver position was huge question mark for this team heading into the season, as it was unknown who would replace graduated No. 1 receiver Alex Neutz.

Ron Willoughby is an almost clone of Neutz and seems to have solidified that No. 1 wide-out position. The junior wide receiver emerged in Buffalo’s 38-28 season opening victory over Duquesne. He had 10 catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He had a quiet performance against Army last week, but Willoughby has the same frame and skillset as Licata’s old favorite target Neutz. And maybe most importantly, he has the same chemistry with Licata that Nuetz and Licata once had.

Bears fans won’t need to look out for senior safety Adam Redden; he’ll make himself known. Redden is one of those players that seems to be all over the field and makes every hit count. He leads the team in tackles for loss (3.5) and is tied for the team lead in sacks (2). Redden is a safety, but he also lines up as a linebacker in the box quite often.

Redden laid a huge hit on Bulls’ starting running back Anthone Taylor for a loss in the backfield during the team’s annual spring scrimmage. That’s just how intense of a player he is.

--- With the matchup against Baylor already dubbed a “Black Out,” what is the buzz on campus like, heading in to Buffalo’s matchup against the Bears?

The team will be wearing black helmets for the first time and students can get official black t-shirts – for $12 dollars that is. Students are even organizing a campout outside the stadium for the night before the game. Buffalo had a pretty good turnout of students in their season opener against Duquesne. I think the lure of a nationally televised Friday night game will bring out an even bigger crowd. Although it’s very possible they’ll all be heading for the exits after the first quarter.

--- How does Buffalo approach this game from a schematic standpoint? And how do you see this game playing out?

It may be near impossible for them to do so, but Buffalo has to at least try to match Baylor score for score. It’s the only chance they have. This means Licata is going to be dropping back a lot, as we saw last week when he threw the ball 31 times in the second half against Army.

If the defense wants any chance of slowing down the Bears’ offense, they can’t miss gap assignments and the secondary has to stop turning their backs to the ball, as they have done through the first two games. Duquesne passed for 322 yards against Buffalo. Army ran for 341 last week. Baylor could very well do both, even if they are without their star offensive players. The Bears are going to get out to a huge lead and put the game away early. Licata will maybe put together some scoring drives in the fourth quarter to make the final score look better.

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