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UB gears up to face Boston College's nationally-ranked defense

The University at Buffalo offense finally got on a roll in the fourth quarter of its win over Army Saturday.

The Bulls’ offensive momentum could hit a brick wall this week.

UB faces the sixth-ranked defensive team in the nation when it goes to Chestnut Hill, Mass., to play Boston College at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Boston College allowed the fewest yards in the nation last season and returned seven starters from that unit.

“Up the middle, the physicality is going to make it a tough challenge for us,” said UB coach Lance Leipold.

Boston College stands 2-2, with wins over Massachusetts and lower-division Wagner. The Golden Eagles lost a close game to Georgia Tech (17-14) and got blown out by Virginia Tech (49-0).

BC’s defense is led by strong-side linebacker Matt Milano, a 221-pounder who’s projected as a middle-round NFL draft choice next year. Connor Strachan, a 237-pound junior, is a budding star at middle linebacker. In front of them are two dominating defensive tackles, 292-pound Ray Smith and 288-pound Truman Gutapfel.

“You can see strong thick guys who are going to hold the line of scrimmage,” Leipold said. “If you think you’re going to line up and run power football and iso-football at these guys all day, I don’t think that’s gonna be the recipe for success. You have to maintain balance. At the same time, we’re going to have to establish a better running game than we had Saturday.”

UB was held to 87 yards rushing and a 2.6 per-carry average by Army.

Bowling Green is allowing 236 yards a game, 91 rushing and 145 passing. It stands 10th in the nation in sacks per game, at 3.75.

“They’ll get some people up in the A gaps on you and try to mess with your protections,” Leipold said. “With a young quarterback, I’m sure they know he hasn’t had a lot of snaps. I’m sure they’ll try to mix up looks for him and try to confuse him and our front five.”

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UB quarterback Tyree Jackson was named the Mid-American Conference East Division offensive player of the week. He passed for 178 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 34 yards rushing and two scores. UB kicker Adam Mitcheson was MAC East special teams player of the week. He kicked the winning 34-yard field goal. . . . UB middle linebacker Khalil Hodge has 33 tackles the past weeks. He’s the first UB player to have 16-plus tackles in back-to-back games.

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Boston College’s offense ranked last in the Atlantic Coast Conference in points and yards last season. The Eagles are banking on improving behind new quarterback Patrick Towles, a graudate-student transfer from Kentucky. He’s 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. Towles is off to a slow start. He’s averaging 143 passing yards a game, with 49.4 percent completions, four TDs and three interceptions.

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UB's competition in the East Division of the MAC has mostly struggled the first month of the season. The MAC East is a combined 7-16. The MAC West is 16-7.

As expected, Western Michigan (4-0), Toledo (3-0) and Central Michigan (3-1) all look like powers. But two perennial MAC powers have struggled.

Northern Illinois, which has appeared in six straight MAC title games, is 0-4 and has lost starting QB Drew Hare to what may be a season-ending knee injury.

Bowling Green, which has appeared in three straight MAC title games, stands 1-3. All three losses have been to quality teams. But the Falcons gave up 77 points to both Ohio State and Memphis and 41 to Middle Tennessee. Bowling Green is considering a QB change from senior James Knapke to red-shirt freshman James Morgan.

Meanwhile, MAC East teams Miami (0-4), Kent State (1-3) both have lost to lower-division teams (as did UB).

Email: mgaughan@buffnews.com

 

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