The University at Buffalo hopes to end a mostly miserable football season with a small gesture of promise Friday.
The Bulls (2-9) close their 2016 campaign at Bowling Green, a program that has taken a big step back after appearing in the past three Mid-American Conference championship games.
Both UB and Bowling Green (3-8) have struggled to replace the production of star quarterbacks who graduated; Joe Licata for UB and Matt Johnson for BG.
However, Bowling Green has been mostly competitive in its Mid-American Conference games. The Falcons had close losses to Ohio, Miami Ohio and Toledo. Now the Falcons have revived with run-oriented wins the last two weeks over Akron and Kent State.
UB has been mostly non-competitive in the MAC and has shown no sign of revival of late. The Bulls have been blown out by Kent State, Ball State, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Miami Ohio and Western Michigan. The lone good MAC game was a win over Akron, 41-20, four weeks ago.
How much fight do the Bulls have left? That's probably the lone reason for UB fans to pay attention.
“I think we realize a win will mean a lot for the program going forward and for ourselves, knowing that we won something,” said UB senior running back Jordan Johnson. “It’s been a rough year. We’ve got to get a win. We need a win. Why not Friday?”
“For the seniors, we’re going to leave a legacy and want to build off that for next year,” said UB tight end Matt Weiser. “It’s a confidence builder. To go out and win your last game as a senior is really important.”
UB is expected to start graduate student Grant Rohach at quarterback for a second straight week. Bulls red-shirt freshman Tyree Jackson sat out the Western Michigan game due to a deep thigh bruise. UB coach Lance Leipold said Jackson was doubtful for Friday.
Jackson worked out on the field in warmups before the Western Michigan game but Leipold acknowledged the QB already had been ruled out. UB was hoping to keep a bit of doubt in the opponent’s mind about the QB starter.
“We just asked him to go through it to make sure they knew he was there,” Leipold said.
Johnson said UB’s practices Monday and Tuesday were spirited. Leipold said he thinks his team will be ready to give the Falcons their best.
“For anyone in our program, we talk about doing things the right way all the time,” Leipold said. “If you’re a competitive athlete and a future professional in whatever occupation you want to be in, you owe it to yourself and your teammates and the university to go out and play your hardest and be your best each and every day. That’s the way we’ve gone about it, and it’ll be that way when we’re undefeated.”
“For our players that are returning, it’s a chance to improve and get things headed in the right direction,” Leipold said. “For our seniors, it’s a chance to end on a high note, and every player should try to help send our seniors out an appropriate way.”