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UB defense takes early criticism to heart

“The Buffalo defense can’t hold a defense to under 30 points.”

“The Buffalo defense can’t force turnovers.”

“The Buffalo defense can’t win unless the offense scores 40 points.”

The Buffalo defense can’t stand hearing this any longer.

Senior linebacker Okezie Alozie represented the Buffalo Bulls at Media Day this summer. Junior cornerback Boise Ross said media members didn’t have very flattering things to say about their unit – which ranked 12th in the MAC, allowing 32.6 points per game last season.

“Are you guys gonna be able to hold a team to 30 points?,” Ross said Alozie was asked at Media Day. “When we heard that, we were like ‘Man, that’s what they are talking about?’ So we just wanted to come out there and keep” the opposing team “at the lowest of all lows and really take it to them as much as we can and as long as we can.”

After FCS Albany’s 14-play, 82-yard touchdown drive opened the game, it looked like the media members were asking some very fair questions. Albany was 4 for 4 on third-down conversions and found receivers running free.

It looked like there could be a repeat of last season’s 38-28 fourth-quarter victory over FCS Duquesne or 2013’s five-overtime victory over FCS Stony Brook. Games that were wins on the scoreboard, but sour feelings walking off the field.

“After we got out of there,” Ross said, “we were like ‘Man, we gotta step up.”

And that’s exactly what the defense did.

Albany’s offense ran three plays or fewer in five of its next seven possessions. Buffalo forced two interceptions – the equivalent of last year’s total interception count – en route to a 51-14 victory at UB Stadium on Saturday. The Great Danes finished with 203 yards compared to UB’s 413.

Senior linebacker Nick Gilbo had the team’s first interception to keep Buffalo leading 24-7 entering the half. Ross dropped an interception earlier and was thankful his teammate was there to pick him up.

“I was running off the field jumping and I was like ‘Man it’s time for us to make another play,’ ” Ross said.

And it only took the Buffalo defense two plays to make another one – and allow Ross to redeem himself.

Ross is a quick learner. He was recruited to UB as a wide receiver and was converted to defensive back last season. He already seems to be picking up on quarterback tricks as he made a perfect break on the ball to intercept Albany sophomore quarterback DJ Cook.

“Just reading the quarterback, looking at his read,” Ross said he was thinking on the play. “He looked at me a little bit at first and then he tried to look me off and after seeing that I just played the wide receiver and I just broke on it.”

Later in the half, Alozie had a huge hit on Cooper to force a fumble and junior linebacker C.J. Stancil forced another fumble.

The Buffalo defense wanted to change people’s perception of the unit.

“Man, they really don’t see any of us,” Ross said Alozie told the defense after media day. “We didn’t prove anything so we’re coming out and we are trying to show we are a team as a group, not as individuals.”

It’s no secret that turnovers are a defense’s best friend. It may have been against an FCS team but after holding a team to 14 points or fewer only three times last season, it’s a positive takeaway for the Bulls.

“We got two today and we could have had more but we were just excited,” Ross said on the interceptions. “We knew that was a standard that we wanted to cause turnovers.”