Coach Jerry Boyes has instilled what he calls a "refuse-to-lose" attitude at Buffalo State.
Canisius coach Barry Mynter has noticed.
When the teams renew their rivalry this afternoon at Buffalo State's Coyer Field (1:30, Radio 1230 AM, 91.3 FM), Mynter hopes his players can overcome the confident swagger the Bengals now carry after winning 25 of their last 32 games.
"They have great faith in their ability to win and they seemingly find a way to do it," Mynter said of the Bengals. "That's what we're struggling to come up with in our program: doing whatever it takes."
Canisius frittered away scoring chances during last week's season-opening, 16-12 loss at Duquesne. Buffalo State came through with a last-minute touchdown pass from Tracy Bacon to Dean Miceli to post a 23-19 victory at Division II Mansfield.
It was the kind of victory that reinforced Buffalo State's lofty preseason expectations. They included a No. 2 national ranking in Division III by the Sporting News and a No. 6 nod from Sports Illustrated.
"Things are a little different now because winning has become somewhat expected," Boyes said. "All the preseason talk adds more to that, but you can't afford to put a lot of stock on that stuff.
"One of the things I've been most proud of the last three years is that our kids have come to play every Saturday. There has been very little playing up to the competition, or playing down. They've been on a consistent level."
After four straight one-win seasons, Buffalo State began its current run with a 7-2 mark in 1990. That was also the last time Canisius had a winning season. The Griffs are just 6-16-1 in their last 23 games, 3-7-1 under Mynter.
Complicating matters is Canisius' uncertainty at quarterback. Senior Steve D'Anna played against Duquesne, but sophomore Ben Kucia will start this week. "They're very close, but Steve had a shot to make things happen and it didn't happen," Mynter said. "We looked at the game film and decided we'll let Ben show us what he can do, rather than procrastinate."
D'Anna was 11 for 19 Saturday for 111 yards with one interception. He directed the Griffs to wins in the final two games last year after Kucia hurt his knee. Kucia started seven games and is favored by Mynter because he stays in the pocket.
Mynter is not expected to give Kucia a quick hook if he struggles early. "I have a great concern about doing that," Mynter said. "You want to give a guy plenty of room and we will work hard not to create that pressure atmosphere for anyone."
The atmosphere is usually super-charged when the two local schools meet. Canisius leads the series, 7-4, but Buffalo State has taken three straight, including last year's 14-7 decision.
The teams will play again next year, but the future of the series beyond 1994 is uncertain because Canisius is now a Division I-AA program bound to scheduling requirements of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Officials from the two schools are hopeful it can continue.
"This is for bragging rights for a year," Boyes said. "It's not just another game because it's such a rival. That's why I hope it keeps going. I'd hate to see a big rival and a traditional game get lost."
The University at Buffalo, meanwhile, hopes to erase the memory of last week's 38-6 embarrassment against New Haven when it hosts Lafayette tonight at UB Stadium (7, Radio 1400).
"When you get knocked down 10 times by a right hand, you don't have to talk about the right hand," said UB coach Jim Ward. "We went back to the drawing board to refine basics."
The Bulls (0-2) face one of the tougher I-AA foes on their schedule. Lafayette (1-0) is the defending Patriot League champ and returns 15 starters.
Ward has reassigned coaching duties for his club's sagging special teams, which were burned for a touchdown last week on a kickoff return and a 78-yard return in the closing minute in the opener against Maine.
Otis Flowers, who coached the defensive backs and special teams, will remain with the DBs and share kickoff, punt and punt return duties with the other defensive coaches. The offensive coaches will handle extra points, field goals and kickoff returns.
"I need to take the pressure off him," Ward said. "Now we'll have five men doing special teams as opposed to just one."