For Adam Redden, the adrenaline rush already has kicked in. He’s so wired up for the Black Friday showdown with Bowling Green that, when pulled aside after Sunday’s practice at UB Stadium, he wasn’t even asked a question before launching into his own pregame analysis.
“The team did good without me,” he began. “Of course we had the loss to Toledo but it’s nothing but rebound for us. I’m really looking forward to playing Bowling Green. They’re 6-1 in the MAC conference, 8-3 overall, just like us. They’re No. 1 defense and we’re No. 2. But we get a lot of turnovers and that’s really going to help us a lot.”
It’s no wonder game day at Ralph Wilson Stadium can’t come fast enough for Redden, a junior linebacker/safety out of St. Francis. He was UB’s leading tackler for the season before suffering a knee sprain tackling Dri Archer in the second quarter of the Oct. 26 game at Kent State. He spent two weeks in full recovery, practiced before last Tuesday’s Miami game, but was held out as a precaution. There was no sense putting him at risk in a game UB figured to win handily — as it did.
“That’s part of the game. It’s football,” Redden said. “I got up and tweaked it so we thought the best thing to do was stay off it for more important games later on, like Bowling Green and the MAC championship and a bowl game. It was nothing too serious. There were no worries. The defense is solid. I just can’t wait to get back out there, that’s all.”
Injuries to teammates provided Redden more playing time last season and the impact was instant. He made one of the plays that helped turn around the culture of the program when he blocked a third-quarter punt at UMass that Kyndal Minnifield returned for a touchdown. The score drew the Bulls within 13-7 in a game they went on to win, 29-19, ending a 13-game road losing streak.
The Bulls slotted Redden into their linebacker/safety hybrid position opposite linebacker Khalil Mack this season and his production soared. His 50 tackles rank fourth on the team. He still leads the Bulls with three fumble recoveries, ranks second with 8.5 tackles for loss and is tied for third in sacks with 3.5. The output is all the more impressive when one considers that Redden arrived at UB as a wide receiver before being switched after his true freshman season.
Friday’s game for the MAC East crown pits two teams bound by statistical similarity. Bowling Green ranks first in the conference in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and pass defense. UB is second in every category except pass defense, where it’s sixth.
But the two offenses also shine. The Falcons are third in scoring at 35.4 points per game, UB fifth at 33. The two are also 3-4 in rush offense and 2-5 in pass offense, with BG holding the edge in both categories.
Weather could play a role. The early forecast calls for snow in the days leading up to the game, with a 30 percent chance of flurries on Friday. The high temperature is projected at 31 degrees. UB officials said last week that 24,000 tickets have been sold with another 6,000 out through various promotions.
“I love the snow, love the cold,” Redden said. “I love the fact we’re playing at the Bills’ stadium, makes us feel right at home and gets a bigger crowd there for us. Home-field advantage and a big turnout, it makes you feel good that I can actually represent Buffalo in a good way, winning and putting out for the city.
“This is for all the marbles in the bag,” Redden said. “This is what we play for. This is why we have the 12-game season. This here proves who deserves to win the MAC East title and I know it’s us.”