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Gill's Bulls taking small steps Second win proving elusive despite statistical upticks

It was not supposed to be like this. Never this dispiriting. Never this muddled.

The University at Buffalo football team -- with its new head coach, new mind-set, new system, new uniforms, etc. -- promised a renaissance. Seven games into the season, with another one this weekend at Boston College as five-touchdown underdogs, the Bulls are searching for that elusive second victory.

And as the losses continue to mount, many are wondering if the program is indeed making strides under first-year coach Turner Gill.

"I know the translation is W's," Gill said on Tuesday. "That's obviously the ultimate medicine to cure a lot of things, particularly in the community, particularly in our program. It's a journey, I know that and I understand that."

The Bulls were 1-0 by Labor Day and while no one expected them to compete with the likes of Auburn, Boston College and Wisconsin, it was reasonable to believe that 1-0 could actually have morphed into 3-4 by now. Instead UB is 1-6 and with BC, Kent State, Akron, Wisconsin and Central Michigan remaining on the schedule, the thoughts of another one-win season are all too real.

There is slight progress from a year ago, when the Bulls had an experienced team and finished 1-10, which led to the firing of coach Jim Hofher.

Through seven games, the Bulls have already scored more points than they did all of last season. They actually eclipsed the mark of 110 points two weeks ago against Miami (Ohio). UB has scored 132 points, 82 points shy of the school record in Division I-A.

Indeed, most of the progress has come on offense. UB has increased its points per game average by 11.2, its passing offense by 40.4 yards and total offense by 32.1 yards a game.

Some intangibles include the development of sophomore quarterback Drew Willy, who started last season as a true freshman, and playmakers in freshmen James Starks (Niagara Falls) and Naaman Roosevelt (St. Joe's). Two weeks ago, the Miami players commented how the Bulls "gave up" during last year's 54-13 loss at Miami but mentioned how well they competed for the entire game in this year's 38-31 defeat.

But the Bulls are allowing 36.4 points a game, an increase of nearly five points per game. The averages are also down in rushing offense and up in rushing defense and total defense. Two weeks ago, the Bulls were the least penalized team in the nation, but they combined for 26 penalties for 219 yards the last two games, including five personal fouls during last Saturday's loss at Ohio University, which points directly at the team's discipline.

"I'm disappointed, not angry, but disappointed," Gill said about the infractions. "We're a young football team and I understand that there are going to be some struggles that go on. But the bottom line is these guys continue to respond to our coaching and teaching."

Then there are the losses and the question whether the Bulls will win again this fall, although the record isn't all that shocking when you consider their inexperience. Twenty-six freshmen and sophomores are on the two-deep for UB, including 11 starters. Boston College (6-1) has 17 freshmen and sophomores and only three starters, all on defense.

Gill says the losses are hard to deal with.

"I won't get used to it. I'm a competitor. I'm a person who wants to win in everything I do, but I knew it wasn't going to happen overnight."

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Gill announced Tuesday that sophomore left guard Jon Geddes will miss the rest of the season with a labrum tear in his shoulder. Geddes, who started the first five games of the season, will undergo surgery to repair the injury. Also, defensive tackle Labinot Hakanjin (broken hand) will miss the next two to three weeks. Out for Saturday's game are defensive tackle Marck Abraham (back), running back Steven King (separated shoulder) and linebacker David Hubbard (neck). Linebacker Ramon Guzman (knee) is doubtful and right guard Jeff Niedermier (ankle) is questionable. . . . Saturday's official box score listed UB's Alex Pierre as the player who committed the Bulls' first personal foul, but it was actually Brian Watson.


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