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BULLS, GRIFFS, BENGALS READY TO DEFEND AIR SPACE

Be advised to keep your eyes on the sky today as footballs fill the air space over the University at Buffalo, Canisius and Buffalo State.

Two of the nation's best pass offenses will be on display at UB Stadium when the Bulls (2-6) celebrate Homecoming against Hofstra (5-2) at 1:30 p.m. (Radio 1520 AM).

The Golden Griffins (3-3, 2-2) try to avoid being upstaged by Fairfield (4-2, 2-2) and its aerial show in a 1 p.m. Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference matchup at the Demske Sports Complex.

Also at 1, the Bengals (4-2) take on the erratic, but potentially dangerous air attack of Kean College (1-6) of New Jersey at Coyer Field (91.3 FM).

The UB-Hofstra matchup should be quite a duel. The Flying Dutchmen's run-and-shoot offense averages 30 points a game and is ranked fourth in Division I-AA at 316 yards passing per game. The Bulls aren't too far behind with the 11th best pass offense in the country (285-yard average).

"As a fan you've got to love a game like this with two terrific offenses," said Hofstra coach Joe Gardi. "As a coach, I'm not sure I like it very much. Games like this scare me to death."

UB coach Craig Cirbus has a lot of concern for his defense, which has been vulnerable against passing teams. And the Bulls have not faced an offense like Hofstra's, which spreads teams out and makes them defend the entire field.

Pulling the trigger for Hofstra is Giovanni Carmazzi, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior who has completed better than 70 percent of his passes for 2,215 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is No. 2 in I-AA in total offense (322 yards per game) and the division's eighth-rated quarterback.

Carmazzi's favorite targets are senior Bryan Kish, who leads the nation with 60 catches (8.57 per game) for 761 yards and five touchdowns, and senior Wayne Yearwood, who averages 13 yards on 46 receptions and leads the team with eight TDs. The other starters, sophomore Steve Jackson and senior Jauron McKelvin, have 48 catches and 460 yards between them.

"This year, they're not as complex in terms of all the formation deployments, but they're so efficient," Cirbus said of the Flying Dutchmen. "They get you with those four and five wideout lineups and can instantly acknowledge where the open seam is. It's really like facing an option attack because you've got to be so disciplined in handling every one of the receivers."

A poor record has overshadowed a big year by 6-6 junior Chad Salisbury, who is on a pace to smash several UB passing records. He has completed 56 percent of his tosses for 2,051 yards, including three 400-yard outings, and 12 touchdowns. Despite missing one game, he is ranked seventh nationally in total offense at 287.7 yards per outing.

Sophomore Drew Haddad has moved to the head of UB's heralded receiving corps with 50 catches and 731 yards. Junior Kali Watkins (39 receptions, 499 yards) is a solid possession receiver and, while slowed by a shoulder injury, Jamie Gasparre's team-high eight touchdowns proves that he is still the Bulls' most lethal weapon.

Both teams are a threat to run the ball. Gardi is high on junior running back Paul Que, who averages 5 yards per carry, but he is more impressed with UB's Anthony Swan.

Swan has been slowed the last three weeks with rib and ankle injuries, but Gardi isn't buying it.

"Swan is as good a back as we will see and that worries me," Gardi said. "Buffalo's entire offense is good. They have a lot of big-play people like we do."

Canisius' highly regarded defense will be tested today. Fairfield has one the MAAC's best offenses, led by total yardage leader Jim Lopusznick (240.5 yards per game). The sophomore has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,367 yards and 13 touchdowns and has run for two scores. Sophomores Eric Wise (MAAC-high 45 catches for 453 yards) and Joe Milligan (13 yards per catch, six TDs) are the league's most productive receiving tandem.

The Griffs' defense will not have two starters. Middle linebacker Billy Joyce (Frontier) has a separated shoulder and defensive tackle Russell Burton a severely sprained ankle. Both injuries occurred during last week's 23-20 win over Alfred.

Freshman quarterback Bryan Roland (St. Joe's), the MAAC rookie of the week, is listed as doubtful with a knee injury from last week. A magnetic resonance imaging exam didn't reveal any damage as was feared, but his availability will be a game-time decision.

Buffalo State coach Jerry Boyes says Kean has more talent than anyone the Bengals have faced this season. Five of Kean's losses have been to teams with winning records.

"Although their record gives you the impression that they are struggling, they have great potential," Boyes said. "Our players must be ready to play at their best in order to beat them."

Kean's success and failure depends on an offense that heavily favors the pass. Freshmen Matt Mantone and Jason Davitt split time at quarterback, completing 135 of 253 pass attempts for 1,248 yards. There isn't one dominant receiver as seven players have at least 10 catches.

Buffalo State's offense, particularly the running game, will try and exploit Kean's defense, which has given up 30 or more points four times. Tailbacks Shawn Starks (Lockport), Deon Foendoe and Tinelle Walker combined for 244 of the Bengals' 266 yards last week. Walker, who stepped in when Foendoe hurt his ankle, responded with 72 yards on nine carries in his most significant action of the season.

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