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ANOTHER CHALLENGE ON BENGALS' HORIZON

Last week, they made a statement.

This week, it means squat.

In order for Buffalo State's 41-17 win over then-14th ranked Albion to become a statement game, the Bengals need to back it up with another declarative sentence. They'll have their chance when they host Cortland State (2-1) for homecoming at 1 p.m. Saturday.

"Yes, I feel we did make a statement," said Buffalo State coach Jerry Boyes. "But you're only as good as your last Saturday. We're here to follow that up with another one. . . . It will be interesting to see how our team responds."

Initially, the response from national Division III polls has been favorable for the Bengals. They jumped to 19th in the American Football Coaches Association Poll and are ranked 17th in Don Hansen's Football Gazette. (Albion, meanwhile, slipped out of the Top 25 rankings.)

After dropping its first game at Division I-AA Robert Morris, Buffalo State responded with a home win against Division II Mansfield and an upset in Michigan over Division III Albion.

The Bengals have shown steady improvement with each game, both in offensive output and defensive intensity. Opponents are gaining 295.7 yards a game, compared to Buffalo State's average of 417 yards per game. The Bengals were particularly stingy against the run last week, allowing Albion to rush for just 49 yards.

Meanwhile, Buffalo State continues to rack up points, both in the air and on the ground, to average 33 per game.

"We had that high level of play for 60 minutes and our defense set the tone," Boyes said. "Offensively, we did some things we're capable of doing. We made some big plays by the people we think are capable of making big plays."

Where Buffalo State hasn't made big plays is in its kicking game.

Kicking problems continue for the Bengals, who have tried several people as punters, extra-point and field-goal kickers and kickoff specialists. But special teams play keeps causing problems for the offense and defense.

The problem on defense -- short fields. The problem on offense -- no extra points.

The Bengals' defense has no choice but to be fierce for 60 minutes if they're to have a chance to win. Poor punts and kickoffs give opponents good drive starts.

Cortland will take advantage of that and challenge the tenacity of Buffalo State's defense, throwing the Bengals a lot of different looks, Boyes said.

"Offensively, they've changed," Boyes said. "In the last three years, they used to run out of the I-formation. This year you can't quite call them run-and-gun, but they'll have one-back or no-backs. They show a lot of formations and they're a very sound football team."

Conversely, while Buffalo State's offense has picked up speed, it has converted only 8 of 13 point-after attempts. No team can afford to give away "free" points.

Elsewhere in local college football, Division I-AA Canisius travels to Erie, Pa., for a match-up with Division II Gannon University (1-2).

The Griffs are 0-2 after dropping a 13-0 decision to St. Peter's last week at the Demske Sports Complex. Their losing streak has reached 12 games.

While Canisius has improved defensively, the offense continues to struggle. Yet to score a point this year, the offensive unit is averaging only 17.5 yards rushing and 90.5 yards passing a game.

"The players' point of reference is a 1-10 season with no success and a ton of problems," said first-year Griffs coach Ed Argast. "My point of reference is that I've been there before and I know the things it takes to move beyond that.

"I do see light at the end of the tunnel and I do think we're making progress. No one likes to lose, but you can't dwell on that. I believe we have enough talent to win a couple of games this year."

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