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Buffalo State Preview: Experience a key for the Bengals

Experience is plentiful on the Buffalo State Bengals roster for the season. How that experience translates on the field is what coach Jerry Boyes will be waiting to see.

"Sometimes it can be a false comfort, but experience is so key to whatever level of sport you play," Boyes said. "People that have a lot of playing time under their belt, their instincts are better. So they play faster because of that. That's what I hope we prove out."

2016 record: 5-5 overall

Conference: Empire 8. Buffalo State went 3-5 in conference play last year.

Top offensive returners:  Seven senior starters return for the Bengals, including quarterback Kyle Hoppy (Orchard Park). Hoppy played in eight games last year, throwing for 1,846 yards with 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Wide receiver Stephen Johnson (McKinley) is the team's leading returning receiver, having caught 27 passes for 564 yards and five touchdowns. Dale Stewart (Niagara Falls) rushed for 419 yards and seven TDS last year.

Top defensive returners: Seven return on the defensive side of the ball as well, led by senior Bart Mazzara (Starpoint), who had 111 tackles last year. Senior Dametrius Brown had 50 while Cliff Brown (McKinley) had 11 tackles for loss among his 44 last year.

Defense a cut above: In early preseason, the defense was a step ahead for the Bengals. That's not unusual. And it's not individual.

"What's stood out is the defense, not anyone in particular and I love that," Boyes said. "Their speed right now is way above our offense right now. Now that's great because it will make our offense better long term because they've got to match that speed in practice. At this point in time, the overall reaction and speed by the defense has really caught my eye."

Looking for a crisper offense: Boyes is looking for the offense to improve in one key area – execution.

"This can be a great play, that can be a great play, but if you don't have 11 guys who know how to execute that play, you'll never have a good play," Boyes said. "It's not plays that win football games, it's the execution of plays that win football games."

New bowl game: The Empire 8 and Liberty Conference have teamed up to create the New York State Bowl Game. The inaugural event will be held on Nov. 18 hosted by the participating school from the Liberty Conference. The top team left in each conference after the NCAA selection will play in the bowl game with the campus site alternating between the two conferences.

The Empire 8 includes Buffalo State, Cortland, Alfred, Brockport, Hartwick, Morrisville, St. John Fisher and Alfred. Liberty includes Hobart, Ithaca, Rochester, RPI, St. Lawrence and Union.

2017 Schedule:
Sept. 2 vs. Bridgewater State, noon
Sept. 16 at Morrisville State, noon
Sept. 23 RPI, noon
Sept. 30 at Alfred University, 1 p.m.
Oct. 7 Cortland, noon
Oct. 14 at St. Lawrence, 1 p.m.
Oct. 21 at Utica, 1 p.m.
Oct. 28 Brockport, noon
Nov. 4 at Hartwick, 1 p.m.
Nov. 11 St. John Fisher, noon

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