Senior safety Adam Redden led a more attacking University at Buffalo defense Saturday.
Redden made two quarterback sacks, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and had 3.5 tackles for loss in the Bulls’ 20-14 loss to Central Michigan.
The Bulls made five sacks, all on blitzes, in the game.
UB interim head coach Alex Wood said his team’s plan was to attack Central Michigan with more blitzes.
“Absolutely, we wanted to be as aggressive as we could on defense and give our kids a chance to really challenge the line of scrimmage and make the quarterback throw off his back foot,” Wood said.
Redden, a St. Francis High School product, made UB’s big defensive play of the game in the second quarter. He was part of an eight-man blitz and knocked the ball out of the hands of Central quarterback Cooper Rush. The ball bounced upfield, and while the other 21 players stood still, Redden chased it down for a recovery at the UB 33. Officials ruled it was a fumble, not an incompletion, and the call was upheld on video review.
“We know they like to run the ball, and they play-action, but the ball is still in the backfield,” Redden said. “So if you’re going to blitz, make the play. I came off unblocked. I knew he was going to keep the ball. I saw the ball in the air, and I felt like I was the only individual who actually saw the ball in the air.”
Redden pushed his sack total for the season to five and his tackle for loss total to 11.5, both team highs.
UB juggled its starting defensive line. Sophomore Max Perisse started at nose tackle. Senior Kristjan Sokoli shifted from nose tackle to defensive end. Tedroy Lynch remained the other starting defensive end. It was the first start of Perisse’s career. Defensive end Brandon Crawford, out last week due to a blow to the head, returned to the second-team line, usually joining nose tackle Dalton Barksdale and Sokoli.
“We wanted a bigger, physical front because we knew they ran a power play,” Wood said. “We flipped those guys to keep Kristjan at the point of attack to their power. We did a pretty good job of containing it for the most part. We’ll go back and evaluate it to see if it would be advantageous for us against Ohio.”
Central Michigan lost star running back Thomas Rawls to a knee injury on the seventh play from scrimmage. Rawls, a transfer from Michigan, took a handoff up the middle and was hit around the ankles by a blitzing Redden. Then Rawls bent backward awkwardly as Jarrett Franklin was taking him to the ground. Rawls was on crutches on the sideline the rest of the game.
He was replaced by junior Saylor Lavalli, who was Central’s starter and leading rusher last season. Lavalli finished with 83 yards on 21 carries.
Joe Licata moved into fourth place on UB’s career passing yardage list. Licata finished 21 of 35 for 233 yards to bring his career total to 5,994. He passed Joe Freedy, who finished with 5,912 yards in 2001.
UB cornerback Marqus Baker, out since the start of the year with a medical condition, was cleared to play and saw a handful of snaps in obvious passing situations.
“We were really looking to play him against Ohio,” Wood said. “What happened was Dwellie Striggles hurt his ankle, and we were short a guy. He was able to play. We made a decision on the sidelines that he needed to get some turns.”
UB’s second-string running back, Jordan Johnson, returned after missing the last three games with a sprained knee. He converted a fourth-and-1 situation just before UB’s first TD by taking a snap in the wildcat formation and running up the middle for 2 yards.
Central has won eight straight games against MAC East foes. The Chippewas are 6-1 against UB.