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UB WILL FIND IT'S NO BULL: THUNDERING HERD IS TOUGH AT HOME

Henry Morton Stanley found Dr. Livingstone a lot more easily than the University at Buffalo will be able to find a trace of an edge tonight.

The Bulls visit Huntington, W.Va., to face the three-time defending Mid-American Conference champion Marshall Thundering Herd (7; Empire, Radio 550).

"They're a great football team with a lot of great speed, and we have a great deal of respect for them," UB coach Craig Cirbus said. "But our job is to do the best we can and believe that if we do the best we can, we'll give them a go. We expect to win."

Marshall is a 43-point favorite to win its MAC opener despite coming off back-to-back losses for the first time since 1992. The Herd opened with a blowout victory over Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State before losing close decisions at No. 18 Michigan State and at North Carolina.

UB beat Bowling Green last week, 20-17, for its first victory in 19 games. The Bulls are 1-3 overall and 1-0 in the MAC East Division.

"I hope we pitch a shutout and score 60 points and set an example in the MAC," Marshall wide receiver Nate Poole said. "Because I know there's a lot of MAC teams out there that are saying, 'Aw, Marshall isn't what they used to be. We can go down there and beat them and run with them.' "

The Herd trampled the Bulls, 59-3, last year at UB en route to an undefeated campaign and a No. 10 national ranking.

"I was out there last year, and it was difficult," UB outside linebacker Marcus Cole said. "They looked so much faster than us. They were just running past our guys on defense.

"But we're a better defense than we were last year. We all understand the defense, we know where we have to be and we're aggressive."

The Herd holds an advantage over UB at every position, which is understandable for a program that has sent several players to the NFL in recent years. Two players who walked on at Marshall during the 1990s -- receiver Randy Moss and defensive end Billy Lyon -- are in the NFL.

UB will have to contain a number of playmakers, starting with quarterback Byron Leftwich. The sophomore has taken over for New York Jets No. 1 draft pick Chad Pennington.

Leftwich has completed 60 of 99 passes for 652 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions for a gaudy efficiency rating of 129.97. He also is dangerous on the run with a 4.9-yard average per carry.

"Any time he's going to see pressure, he's going to move," Cole said. "We have to tighten up, and we can't miss tackles. They'll make a big play. They put up a lot of points."

Poole, a Biletnikoff Award (nation's top receiver) candidate and potential first-round draft pick, might be the MAC's top wideout. He has 18 catches for 207 yards and two TDs this year. He rolled up 1,122 yards and nine scores last year.

Brandon Carey leads the Herd ground game with 31 carries for 193 yards and a score. Chanston Rodgers has three TDs on just 13 carries. Both backs should see more action tonight because No. 2 tailback Ernest Pitts left the team this week to be with his ailing mother.

If Marshall has a weakness, it's a banged up offensive line that has produced only 155 rushing yards the past two games and has allowed seven sacks all year.

"We're struggling blocking to run the football," Herd coach Bob Pruett said. "Teams have put some pressure on Byron Leftwich. We've had to do some things to protect the quarterback that have limited us. When their X is bigger than your O, you have to do some things to block them."

UB is coming off a seven-sack performance against Bowling Green, with outside linebacker Duane Williams recording four of those.

Marshall's defense might be better than its offense, and if one particular trend continues, Cirbus might want to keep backup quarterback Mike Gaydosz warmed up.

In its last 16 games, the Herd has knocked six quarterbacks out of action. UB has allowed Joe Freedy to be sacked a dozen times already this year.

"Marshall doesn't have giant people on defense but fast people," Cirbus said. "They're all fast. Their pursuit to the football is great. You have to be perfect to be able to gain 3 or 4 yards on the ground, and their ability to run down a pass . . . We have to perfect everything."

Marshall's defense is led by Butkus Award (top linebacker) candidate Max Yates and first-team All-MAC cornerbacks Danny Derricott and Maurice Hines. Derricott is a Nagurski Award (top defensive player) and Thorpe Award (top defensive back) candidate.

Hines, also the team's top kickoff returner, pulled a quadriceps muscle last week but is still listed as a starter tonight.

Free safety Doug Hodges has three interceptions this year, including two against Michigan State.

"Their boys are quick," UB receiver Andre Forde said. "We're going to have to be pinpoint with our offense, be efficient and really (play)."

The Herd also boasts one of the country's best punters in Curtis Head, a challenger for the newly created Ray Guy Award. Head's 45.4-yard average ranks first in the MAC and third in the nation.

Also working against the Bulls is tonight's venue: 40,000-seat Marshall University Stadium.

Marshall has won 32 straight home games, the longest such streak in the country. The last time Marshall lost at home was to Montana in the 1995 Division I-AA title game. The Herd is 77-4 overall at MU Stadium.

Not helping the Bulls' chances is their record on artificial turf. They have gone 3-10 on carpet since 1995, with their last victory coming at Hofstra in 1996.

The only key injury for UB is tailback and punt returner Bam McDonald, who won't make the trip because of a sprained knee. The Bulls' leading rusher is expected to be out at least three more weeks.

Receiver Zeke McKine suffered a slight concussion against Bowling Green, but he should play tonight.

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