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Bulls strive to pressure quarterback

Bruno Lapoint is looking forward to his first sack.

"I got part of one last year," the junior defensive end said. "I want my own now. I've been waiting long enough for it."

The rest of the University at Buffalo defense would like him to get one, too. And perhaps a few more.

Getting to the quarterback has been a point of emphasis for the Bulls' defense this year. The numbers last year were rather weak as the unit had 14 sacks -- an average of one per game -- ranking the Bulls in a tie for 112th out of 119 teams in the country last year.

Through the first two games this year, the numbers still aren't all that great.

The Bulls (1-1) have just one sack, by Justin Winters in the opener at UTEP -- which is tied for 108th in the nation.

They will try to add to that number on Saturday night against Central Florida (1-1).

"That was our big emphasis all spring, was getting more of a pass rush to the quarterback," junior linebacker Jerry Housey said. "That's what I worked on the whole summer -- trying to get to the quarterback. That's one of the things we've been working at. We haven't been real successful so far but we will be."

How important are the numbers?

For defensive coordinator Fred Reed, it's a combination of getting the sack stat and in just pressuring the quarterback to throw the opponent's offense off balance.

Reed said he is pleased with the pressure they've put on the quarterback over the first two games, especially in third-down situations. The problem has been in finishing off the sack.

"We've had opportunities the first two games and a couple of times we just did not finish," Reed said. "And when you don't finish there's a possibility that the quarterback can scramble and make a play. We want to finish.

"Our guys have done a great job in picking up what we're doing in terms of our system. Our coaches have done a great job in terms of teaching technique to put them in positions to be successful. We feel pretty good about we're on track to get there."

The technique that Reed and his staff emphasize is speed off the ball.

"We want them to get off the ball just like they're running a 40-yard dash or a 100-meter sprint," Reed said.

"The ball moves, you move. That's what we teach them. That takes repetition."

As for Saturday's opponent, Central Florida has allowed four sacks in its first two games of the season for a total loss of 29 yards while having some inconsistency at the quarterback position.

"Offensively I think they're a team that's still trying to find their identity," UB coach Turner Gill said about UCF. "They're trying to figure out their quarterback situation. Who they're going to play, I don't know, but I do think they have some talent, particularly at the receiving corps."

According to Central Florida, Brett Hodges will make his first start for the Knights against Buffalo. It will be the third start of Hodges' career as the senior transferred from Wake Forest. He played in the Knights' first two games off the bench, going 25 of 43 for 287 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

For the Bulls' defense, each new opponent brings new opportunities to show what it can do.

"It always depends on who you're going to play," Lapoint said. "I think we've got a good shot this week. With what we've seen it's definitely possible to get there and I don't see why we shouldn't. We're working together."

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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