Running (And Passing) Of Bulls A Problem

The University At Buffalo is an University of 26,168 undergraduates and doctorial candidates on two campuses. It is the largest public university in the state of New York. $250 million in research and training grants come to the school each year and UB is on of only 62 institutions in the nation to belong to the Association of American Universities. Why, oh why, then, can this institution of 300+ undergrad and graduate programs not field a competetive, if not winning, football team?

Buffalo was not always the world's football-whipping post. Before the school entered the Mid-American Conference, the overall mark was at UB was 305-357-28 (47%), including only 30 wins in 107 games in the era of 1990-99. Since they have stepped up to Division I-A and the MAC, the Bulls are only 6-46, 3-32 in the league, and have dropped to an all-time mark of 311-410-28 (43%). They currently are in the midst of a 17-game losing streak, 12 in a row in the MAC. Marshall has the MAC all-time record for futility, losing 16 games in a row in the league between 1966-69 (0-27-1 during that stretch in all games). Marshall was expelled from the MAC during this stretch, for recruiting violations, under-funding and facilities, but the losing had to figure in the equation.

UB has tied Butler (0-7/1948-49) for the MAC's third worst mark. Next up is Toledo (0-14/1958-61). The Bulls get no break this week with the Thundering Herd coming to Amhearst, NY, for Saturday's game (1:00 p.m. kickoff). After losing in the first-ever game with the Bulls in 1959, Marshall has won six straight (1963-64; 1999-2002). MU has outscored UB 206 to 52 in the last four meetings, with 34-14 being the "closest" game in the renewed series.

The Bulls offense has only scored nine touchdowns through seven games this year, as third year head coach Jim Hofher is in the midst of a youth movement on a team with only 12 seniors, only six of which start. At quarterback, junior Randall Secky (6-4, 216) was the starter in 2002 and through the first three games this season before being replaced by red-shirt sophomore P.J. Piskorik (6-0, 219), who has appeared in all seven games. He has hit on 49-of-102 for 437 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

Running back was thought to be a strength of the Bulls when the year started, with sophomore Aaron Leeper (5-10, 194) returning after winning the MAC Freshman of the Year award. While he has started three games (76/319/2 td), Leeper has been most effective on kickoff returns, with 17 for 331 yards (19.5 ypr) including eight verses Miami in the 59-3 rout last week. He has been moved to second team by fellow sophomore Dave Dawson (5-8, 183) who has started the last four games. Dawson has 73 rushes for 424 yards, an average of 5.8 yards per carry, and one touchdown. He rushed for 104 yards verses Miami and had 103 at Marshall last year. Dawson is leading the MAC in kickoff returns, with nine for 233 yards (25.9 yards per return).

The receiving corps has not been effective, averaging only 90 yards per game. Junior Matt Knueven (6-1, 205) has over one-third of the passing yards (636) for the Bulls with 23 catches for 279 yards and the only receiving touchdown of the season. Leeper is second on the team in receptions out of the backfield, with 16 for 62 yards. No other receiver is in double-didgets for catches, although red-shirt freshman Brian Watson (6-5, 218) has the size to go get it and has nine catches for 56 yards.

The offensive line for the Bulls has problems as well, allowing 14 sacks on only 161 attempts in seven games (in six games, MU has allowed 10 on 219 attempts; Toledo only five in 230 attempts in six games leads the MAC and EMU has allowed 24 in seven games, worst in MAC). Senior right tackle Jeff Mills (6-6, 297) has 29 straight starts as a three-year letterman and tri-captain. Sophomore left tackle Zack Love (6-4, 296) has started 18 straight games. The guards are red-shirt freshmen Mike Schifano (6-5, 285) and Tim Schmidt (6-6, 301). The center is junior Eric Weber (6-5, 310), who missed all of 2002 with a shoulder injury after starting in 2001.

The tight end is another red-shirt freshman, Chad Upshaw (6-4, 250) who functions as a blocker mostly with only three catches for 15 yards. Coming up later this week, we look at the Bulls on defense, where they are last in the MAC in scoring, rushing and total. The picture does not get any prettier on the other side of the ball.

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