The University at Buffalo gets ready to face one of the most improved football teams in the nation Saturday.
Army will roll into Amherst with a 3-0 record and the No. 2-ranked rushing attack in the nation. The Black Knights are averaging 367 yards on the ground a game and coming off a 66-14 rout of Texas-El Paso.
The Black Knights went 2-10 last season but lost seven games by a touchdown or less. They returned 16 starters this year and now are in their third year in the wishbone offensive system of coach Jeff Monken.
The timing does not look good for a UB team that gave up 352 rushing yards in losing Saturday at Nevada, 38-14.
“I think we have enough guys that have played in the system for the last three years,” said Monken in a news conference this month. “Though they may not have been starters the entire time, they've grown up in the program and have just gotten better as time has progressed. They've gotten more developed physically and they've gotten better at understanding the schemes and it starts to come together the longer you do it.”
Army upset Temple in the opener, 28-13. Temple was picked for second in the East Division of the American Athletic Conference. Army whipped Rice, 31-14 before the win at UTEP, which was viewed in a similar light as UB entering the season.
Army's revival has been a long time coming. Army has endured losing seasons each of the past five years and 18 of the last 19 years. It has lost to Navy 14 straight seasons.
Monken, who was a UB assistant under Jim Ward from 1992-94, learned the triple-option offense as an aide at Georgia Tech in 2008 and ’09. He took it to Georgia Southern and posted a 36-16 record as head coach there for four seasons.
“If it was easy, everyone would do it and everyone would run that offense,” UB coach Lance Leipold said. “What they’ve done is a credit to Coach Monken and his staff and their personnel.”
The game is a 7 p.m. start at UB Stadium and will be broadcast online on ESPN3. Country music artist David Nail will perform at Stampede Square, adjacent to the stadium, before the game.
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UB cornerback Boise Ross will sit out the first half of the game because he was ejected from the fourth quarter of the Nevada loss for a targeting foul. It was a questionable foul. Nevada receiver Wyatt Demps ran a down-and-out pattern to the right sideline on a third-and-8 play. As Demps was gathering the ball, leaning toward the sideline, Ross hit him in the back and jarred the ball loose. It was ruled Demps was in a defenseless position, and the call was upheld on review. Any time a player is ejected on such a call in the second half, he must sit out the first half of the following game.
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More production from the passing game is the priority for UB’s offense this week. The Bulls rushed for 231 yards at Nevada, and it wasn’t garbage-time production. The Bulls 108 in the first half. But QB Tyree Jackson was 7 of 22 for 130 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought Tyree handled himself well running the football team,” Leipold said. “He didn’t get rattled. He wasn’t flustered in any way. I thought he ran the ball well again. He’s seeing things. I think he’ll continue to improve. I thought we had a couple balls that were catchable that weren’t caught. In the vertical game, we had some incompletions. . . . I think he’s going to grow with experience."
UB’s wideouts were held without a catch Saturday.
“We need to surround him with opportunities to be successful and not put the whole thing on his shoulders right now,” Leipold said of Jackson. “We didn’t have a receiver catch a pass. We’ve got to find a way to distribute the ball better.”
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UB’s game at Boston College on Oct. 1 will be a 1 p.m. kickoff.