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Bulls' run defense needs more work

Fred Reed has been the University at Buffalo's defensive coordinator for three games. In that time, the Bulls have tried to forge an identity as a defense that punches in and out with a time clock.

But with a season-high 170 yards rushing Saturday, Central Florida became the third consecutive team to rush for more than 130 yards against UB. Texas-El Paso rushed for 139 yards and Pittsburgh had 209.

The last time the Bulls held an opponent under 130 yards was against Ohio University last season, a span of nine games. The numbers indicate there's more work to be done with the run defense, but UB coach Turner Gill said there was some improvement between the Pitt and UCF games.

UCF threw some wrinkles at the Bulls that were unexpected. The Knights hadn't run out of a four-wide set in their two previous games, and quarterback Brett Hodges, making his first start at UCF after transferring from Wake Forest and not as a scrambler, had 71 yards against the Bulls.

"That caught us off-guard a little bit and we had to make an adjustment," Gill said as the Bulls (1-2) prepare this week for a game against Temple (0-2) Saturday in Philadelphia. "You have to give credit to their quarterback, he took off running a couple of times on pass plays."

Gill said the defense made improvements in containing the two-back formation power play, which is also utilized by UTEP and Pitt. The Bulls didn't allow any big plays on the ground against UCF, either, and the longest play from scrimmage was a 17-yard scramble by Hodges.

"That was something we didn't have success in the first two ball games, so we did make adjustments with that particular play," Gill said. "That was something we did emphasize and it was something we did correct. If you stop one thing, you may give up something else."

Right now, the Bulls rank 95th in the country against the run (172.6 ypg), and the Owls rank 104th in rushing offense (92.5 ypg). However, UCF averaged just 70 yards a game before Saturday and was able to move the ball against UB.

"The power game people try and run at us, we've been hurting the last year or two," Gill said. ""People are going to make some runs here and there, but I thought there was improvement."

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Gill announced during his weekly news conference that redshirt freshman left guard Jose Cortes will probably miss the remainder of the season and undergo shoulder surgery. Backup junior right tackle Brian Kelly now moves to left guard to behind junior Peter Bittner, but if either Bittner or right guard Robert Colpoys were injured, sophomore center Josh Violanti would move to guard, Gill said.

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The Bulls have struggled with kickoff returns this season. The average starting position following a kickoff is the 24-yard line. Only six of 20 kickoffs have gone past the 25-yard line. Two of those were the result of the ball being kicked out of bounds and being placed on the 40-yard line.

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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