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CHIPPEWAS' LINE POSES HEAVYWEIGHT TEST FOR UB

Two reasons the University at Buffalo should be nervous about tonight's game against Central Michigan at UB Stadium:

1. The Chippewas' offensive line weighs 1,510 pounds and the lightest starter is 285.

2. Chippewas linebacker James King has six blocked punts this season -- a pace that would break the NCAA record.

These are not comforting facts for coach Jim Hofher's squad, a team looking for back-to-back victories tonight (7, Radio 550) when it hosts the Chippewas (1-2, 0-1 Mid-American Conference). Central Michigan's program, like UB (1-2, 0-1), is rebuilding, but it could pose a number of problems.

"They are an exciting team to watch," said Hofher, whose squad is coming off a convincing 37-20 win over Connecticut last Saturday. "They're exceptionally quick on defense, and they play extremely hard. They are very multiple in their (number of blitzes) and really, really aggressive on defense."

Hofher's biggest concern is Central Michigan's immense offensive line. UB's Chris Shelly, a 6-foot-1, 227-pound senior, could be matched against 6-foot-7 tackle Matt Brayton, who outweighs Shelly by nearly 100 pounds.

"They're massive," Hofher said. "They may end up being the biggest team we'll face all year."

Opponents have been able to move the ball against the Chippewas to the tune of 433.7 yards per game. Last week, Toledo's Chester Taylor scored five touchdowns, a MAC record, while rushing 22 times for 164 yards. However, Central Michigan runs a 4-4 defense, which is geared to stop the run, so the Bulls may have to test the defense through the air.

"We are probably definitely going to have to throw the ball," said senior left guard Tim Hedges. "They attack a lot so we're going to have to get a big play here or there."

Offensively, Central Michigan has produced decent numbers utilizing the spread offense, college football's new toy. Led by elusive quarterback Derrick Vickers, the Chippewas rank ninth in the league in total offense (334 yards per game) and fourth in passing (199) and scoring (30.3 points).

"Offensively, they are resembling what more and more teams in college football look like with a spread offense," Hofher said. "They have a very dynamic quarterback who can run and make you miss, so you really have to have a plan for him."

The same goes for King. The redshirt freshman blocked his sixth punt of the season last week against Toledo. Two of his blocks were returned for touchdowns and two set up scores. The 6-1, 195-pounder tied an NCAA mark with four blocks against Michigan State. The NCAA record for blocked punts in a season is eight, held by Jimmy Lisko of Arkansas State (1975) and James Francis of Baylor (1989).

King was addressed early in practice this week and again during team meetings. The Bulls' objective is plain: know where he is at all times.

"Let's say he just had one in every game, that would be three and that would still get our attention," Hofher said. "But the guy had four in one game. He's excellent and he's an explosive guy."

Fans attending tonight's game should be aware that extra security precautions will be in place. Fans will be prohibited from carrying coolers, bags, backpacks or similar items into the stadium. Any item that someone entering the stadium has may be checked or held by security. . . . Sophomore linebacker Lamar Wilcher remains questionable after suffering a shoulder injury last week in practice. He missed the Bulls' game at UConn.

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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