The University at Buffalo found out how tough it is to step up in competition last week. Fortunately for the Bulls, today's task won't be as daunting.
UB (2-2), coming off a 50-0 train wreck at Division I-A Ohio University, will play its second Division II team this season when West Chester University (0-3) comes to town for a 1:30 p.m. contest (Radio 1520).
Good weather and a pregame autograph session featuring Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Ruben Brown is expected to help boost the crowd over 7,000.
Elsewhere, Canisius College (1-1, 1-0) seeks its second straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference road victory against Siena (0-1, 0-1) at 1, while Buffalo State (2-1) visits Cortland State (3-0), Upstate New York's top-ranked Division III school (1 p.m., 91.3 FM).
On paper, UB -- which pounded D-II Lock Haven, 30-7, in its opener -- seems to have a mismatch. But two of West Chester's losses have come against highly-ranked Division I-AA teams Villanova (No. 4 in poll) and Delaware (No. 10).
In their season-opener at Villanova, the Golden Rams fell behind, 64-0 -- in the first half! Mercifully, the second half was called off because of lightning. Against Delaware, West Chester recorded 16 tackles for lost yardage -- including eight sacks -- but never threatened in a 28-7 defeat.
Still, UB coach Craig Cirbus spent most of the week heaping praise on the Rams. The message was clear: "We had better give a Division II team as much respect as a Division I-A team," he said. "If you make mistakes and you don't respect the opponent, you're going to be in for a long afternoon. It is important that we have the proper mindset because physically we can handle the task."
Cirbus is still seeking a complete performance, especially from the offense. While the running game is starting to come alive, the passing attack has been largely ineffective the last two weeks.
Quarterback Chad Salisbury, who missed a game with a knee injury, showed a lot of rust and never looked comfortable against Ohio. The junior has struggled recently after a hot start.
In the first game and a half, Salisbury completed 65 percent of his passes for 527 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception. However, he has completed less than 44 percent, thrown five interceptions and recorded just one touchdown over the last six quarters.
"I don't think he's playing poorly. I think he did not play with a lot of certainty," Cirbus said. "With this split-second timing of a passing game, you need your whole focus. But what I've learned about Chad is he's an awfully strong competitor."
If Salisbury is on today, UB will have a chance to make some big plays against a West Chester defense that can pressure the quarterback but exposes its secondary to one-on-one matchups with receivers. The Rams give up more than 270 passing yards per game.
West Chester coach Rick Daniels is concerned about his offense scoring enough points and giving quarterback Mike Mitros time to throw against UB's aggressive defense.
"Their front four is as good as I've seen," Daniels said. "They can do some things without sending their linebackers. We need a big-play guy, someone we can go to when we need to get some big yardage. We're running the ball fairly well, but we need to get the passing game working."
On the injury front, UB will be without backup safety Jeff Lawrence (sprained ankle), fullback Theron Walker (deep thigh bruise) and offensive tackle Robert Meyer (broken hand). Reserve linebacker Kulaa Bacheyie will miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
Elsewhere . . .
Canisius and Siena will be a matchup of strengths. Led by defensive end Scott Dochat (the MAAC defensive player of the week), the Griffs rank sixth in Division I-AA by allowing just 33 rushing yards per game. They also rank second in the country with an average turnover margin of plus-4.5.
The Saints counter with All-American tailback Reggie Greene, who has led Division I-AA in rushing and all-purpose yards the past two seasons. A candidate for the Walter Payton award as the nation's best I-AA player, Greene opened this season with 164 yards and two touchdowns -- including a career-long 82-yard run -- in a 38-14 loss to Duquesne.
After being overshadowed by its passing attack, Buffalo State's running game took center stage last week as freshman Dion Foendoe made a stunning debut with 166 yards and two touchdowns in the second half of a 16-7 win at Washington & Jefferson. The Bengals' defense must contend with Cortland running back Omar Darling, Upstate New York's leading rusher (129.7 per game) and scorer (seven TDs), and a Red Dragon offense that averages 39.5 points per contest.
"Cortland is the best team on our schedule thus far," Buffalo State coach Jerry Boyes said. "They are solid in every phase of the game with no apparent weaknesses. Every aspect of our game must be in high gear for this contest."