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UB faces big challenge?against UConn's stout defense

1. ?Hurting. UB knows it won't have WR Fred Lee and FB Boomer Brock today. It might not have workhorse RB Branden Oliver, either. Oliver suffered an unspecified leg injury that kept him out of the second half of UB's 23-7 loss to Kent State 10 days ago. While listed as day-to-day, he doesn't figure to play today. Why risk the health of your main offensive weapon in a nonconference tilt when road games against two of the MACs elite are on the immediate horizon? Oliver's injury has the Bulls going deeper on the RB depth chart four games into the season, with both shifty sophomore Brandon Murie and true freshman Devin Campbell expected to get carries. UB lost Oliver's backup, James Potts, to an ACL tear against Morgan State.

2. ?National Impact. ?For UConn, the defense never rests. The Huskies have allowed 61 points in four games and just 10 in their two at home. They're fifth in the nation in total defense at 213 yards a game. Three players rank in the top 35 in sacks: DL Trevardo Williams (T7, 5.5), LB Yawin Smallwood (T21, 4) and LB Sio Moore (T34, 3.5). Avoid the pass rush by establishing the run? It's a good theory, but one that's proven ineffective. UConn's allowing 57 rushing yards a game -- fourth-best in the country -- and Smallwood's been an absolute terror there too with 42 total tackles and 9.5 of them for losses out of the base 4-3 alignment.

3. ?The Great Equalizer. ?UConn's defensive dominance raises the question: Why is this team only 2-2? UB fans got some insight into the answer last season, when the Huskies struggled offensively and needed a couple of big plays late to subdue the Bulls, 17-3, at UB Stadium. The team's offensive identity remains a mystery. A big deficit forced UConn to the air in last week's loss at Western Michigan and redshirt sophomore QB Chandler Whitmer had by far his biggest game in completing 28 of 44 for 333 yards and three TDs. He was intercepted once and sacked six times, one of those resulting in a fumble returned 53 yards for a TD. Feature back Lyle McCombs averages 23 carries but has yet to go for 100 yards in a game.

4. ?Catch-22. ?That's what UB WR Alex Neutz might have to do for the Bulls to move the ball against UConn's stout D. Trouble is, Neutz has 13 receptions more than any other WR and draws increased attention. Others have to figure in the mix but the absence of Lee makes that challenge all the more formidable. Former QB Rudy Johnson takes over Lee's starting spot. SO Cordero Dixon, expected to stretch defenses with his speed, has been a non-factor. QB Alex Zordich, coming off a shocker of a poor performance against Kent State, will have to buy time with his legs.

5. ?Extra Points. ?UConn leads the series, 7-1 … UB has one victory over a BCS automatic qualifier (Rutgers, 2002) … Huskies S Ty-Meer Brown (shoulder) and C Alex Mateas (ankle) were limited in practice this week . … Sr. WR Nick Williams killed Bulls with two big plays last year and is a dangerous return man (17.7 yards on punts with a TD) … Bulls are third in nation at 4.67 sacks a game … Teams are among the nation's worst in turnover margin (Buffalo minus-1.33 a game, UConn minus-1.5.


Outlook: Forcing a couple big turnovers is key to UB's chances. ?Unless that happens . . . UConn 20, UB 7.