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UB notebook: MAC East appears wide open as conference play begins

It was easy for University at Buffalo football coach Lance Leipold to turn the page on Saturday’s ugly loss at Boston College and get his squad focused on Mid-American Conference play.

“One of the things we showed in the team meeting yesterday was the Eastern Division standings,” said Leipold Tuesday.

“I don’t think our guys study standings, (although) they may study scores,” Leipold said. “I think there were some wide eyes when they started looking at where the East is right now. And opportunity is still there for the taking.”

The MAC East is a free-for-all.

The records: Ohio (3-2), Akron (3-2), UB (1-3), Bowling Green (1-4) Kent State (1-4), Miami (0-5).

Bowling Green, the preseason favorite and three-time defending East champion, benched its starting quarterback Saturday and lost to perennial MAC doormat Eastern Michigan.

Ohio, picked second in the East, has quarterback issues and eked past Miami on Saturday. Akron, picked third, has quarterback issues and needed a last-minute TD drive to edge Kent State.

So the Bulls (1-3) can change their perspective in a hurry when they meet Kent State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at UB Stadium.

Kent State already has lost its top two quarterbacks – Justin Anger and Mylik Mitchell – to season-ending injuries.

But that does not mean Saturday will be a cakewalk for UB. In a surprise move, the Flashes shifted slot receiver Nick Holley to QB against Akron. He passed for 285 yards and ran for 117 on a quality Akron defense.

“They took what appears to be one of their most competitive football-savvy players and put the ball in his hands as much as they can,” Leipold said. “He’s shown it in previous games, whether it be in the backfield, in the slot or as a punt returner, and now they’re making sure he touches it every play.”

“Coming off our four nonconference games, we’ve learned a lot,” said UB linebacker Ishmael Hargrove. “I feel we have a great chance to win the MAC East.”

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Rocker Eddie Money will play the Tailgate Concert Series at Stampede Square, adjacent to the stadium, starting at 1:30 p.m. … The starting time for UB’s home game against Ball State on Oct. 15 is 3:30 p.m. UB’s road game at Northern Illinois on Oct. 22 also is a 3:30 p.m. start.

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Leipold said the status of starting right tackle Tyler O’Henly is day to day. O’Henly sat out the Boston College game due to a concussion suffered in Wednesday’s practice. Senior Albert McCoy started in his place.

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Boston College’s defense moved up to No. 1 in the nation this week after holding UB to 67 offensive yards, a Bulls program low.

Leipold on the UB offense: “We re-evaluate everything every week,” Leipold said. “Do you take everything and throw it out the window? No. But we can’t kid ourselves either. It has to be better. We knew going in that it would be a challenge, although not a 67-yard total output type of game. But we knew we were in for a battle. You have to look at it even deeper.”

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UB sophomore middle linebacker Khalil Hodge has 49 tackles, and his 12.3 tackles per game ranks third in the nation. Hargrove, a junior linebacker who plays the wide side of the field, has 36 tackles. Linebacker Jarrett Franklin has 34.

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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