UB Gameday: Five Things to Watch vs. Nevada
Kickoff: 9 p.m. at Mackay Stadium, Reno, Nev.
Radio 1520 AM. TV & Online: Mountain West Network.
1. Calling all playmakers. Most of the leading playmakers from last year’s UB team are gone. Licata. Weiser. Willoughby. Alozie. It’s time to see who’s ready to make some plays against a quality opponent. UB needs a strong game from Jordan Johnson and Johnathan Hawkins, and it would be nice if Emmanuel Reed, a red-shirt freshman from Florida, got involved in the rushing action. It’s obvious to everyone that QB Tyree Jackson has to take over the team. How much quality help will he get? TE Mason Schreck looked good against Albany. Keep feeding him. He should be the young QB’s best friend. Who is capable of making a few big plays at WR?
2. Three-level run D. Nevada RB James Butler is a breakaway stud. Let’s see if Brian Borland’s defense is in better synch than last season, when it got gashed by the 5-foot-9 back. UB is not shutting Butler down. The guy gained 1,300 yards last year. But UB can not allow the long gainers of last season. Last year’s Nevada game was a poor outings in an otherwise good year for MLB Nick Gilbo. Let’s see if new MLB Khalil Hodge can read his keys and not overpursue. UB’s safeties got pulled out of position by pre-snap motion last year on some of those long runs. That’s why Butler wasn’t stopped at 15 yards when he got to the third level. Are juniors Ryan Williamson and Tim Roberts ready to be a steady safety combination? That’s a mystery heading into this game.
3. Start fast on D. The young UB offense needs some margin for error. It needs to be able to stay with a run-first approach. The game plan can’t go out the window in the first 15 minutes. That means UB’s defense needs to get some early stops and keep this a one-score game while the young Bulls get comfortable on the road. UB had a problem with slow starts last year. That needs to end.
4. Keep No. 15 in the pocket. This doesn’t look like a game that calls for a ton of blitzing. Based on last year’s showing in Amherst, Nevada QB Tyler Stewart is not going to kill the Bulls from the pocket. Keep him in there and force him to make accurate throws down the field.
5. Play keep-away. This goes for every game, but it’s worth emphasizing after an outing in which UB lost the turnover battle, 4-0. Don’t give Nevada any short fields. No double-digit underdog ever wins without winning the turnover battle.