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UB's Gill sounds notes of optimism

Those who watched the University at Buffalo struggle through its first two losses know that Saturday's 37-13 defeat at Temple does not qualify as a surprise.
These Bulls have battled key injuries, inexperience and haven't adjusted well to a new defensive scheme.

With a 1-3 record and the heart of the Mid-American Conference schedule remaining, it is becoming clear that this season could be more challenging than anticipated for coach Turner Gill.
Based on how the Bulls have performed, it would be an achievement for them just to become bowl eligible. To do so, UB must win five of its remaining eight games, all but one against MAC foes.
More than that, Gill must keep the season from disintegrating just one game into the league schedule. Gill's teams have usually started slowly -- last year the Bulls began 2-4 -- which is why no one in the program is ready to sound the alarm.
"They have something they can relate to because we were in this situation somewhat last year," Gill said. "They know that it can be done and they know it's a matter of, 'Will we get it done?' This is a different team and we have different people, but there is some hope and some good things still to happen."
Perhaps that's why Gill sounded more optimistic than not after the Temple loss, but he did say the Bulls need to improve in all phases. Blame can be spread throughout. The Bulls have committed 13 turnovers over the last three games and sophomore quarterback Zach Maynard has six interceptions and three fumbles over the last two games.

Gill hinted that Maynard wouldn't have to hoist as many passes if the running game improved. UB ranks 104th at 97.2 yards a game. Four of the teams ranked lower are in the MAC: Miami, Western Michigan, Ohio and Bowling Green.
The Bulls were expected to repeat in the MAC's East Division, and few anticipated they would look this perplexed in nonleague play. Out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, UB ranks 99th in rush defense, 118th in turnover margin and 110th in sacks.
Temple (1-2, 1-0) is now responsible for the worst MAC loss for UB since a 49-14 loss at Ball State on Sept. 29, 2007.
After the game, UB players expressed less rampant confidence and more of an outlook that "we have to look in the mirror," as safety Mike Newton said.
Gill and his staff like the team's effort. He believes it is critical that players don't lose optimism and belief, particularly one game into the conference schedule.
But players know time is running short for the team to eliminate its mistakes and make a run and repeat as league champions.
"The coaches have us well-prepared," Newton said. "We just have to execute."

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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