UB football faces yet another week without its starting quarterback and running back.
Tyree Jackson, the Bulls' dual threat QB, is doubtful for Saturday's game against Western Michigan according to coach Lance Leipold. He hurt his knee late in the first half against Florida Atlantic two weeks ago and hasn't seen the field since. Johnathan Hawkins, projected to be the Bulls' primary back this season, hasn't played since the team's Sept. 16 game against Colgate.
Luckily for the Bulls, they've been able to roll with the punches so far. It starts with running back Emmanuel Reed, who has turned into a star. He's rushed for 100 yards in three straight games, with his best outing coming last week. He was named the MAC East Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 144 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-13 victory against Kent State.
Backup quarterback Drew Anderson has been used less frequently but has been efficient. He's gone 18 for 27 for 251 yards, two touchdowns and an interception since Jackson went down.
Add in successful performances from wide receiver Anthony Johnson, who has at least 60 yards receiving in every game this year, and a pass defense ranked first in the MAC and in the top 30 in in the country and it's easy to see how the Bulls have won their last two outings despite missing pieces. There hasn't been a drop off.
"It says a lot about our guys, our team sticking together and the confidence they have in the next guy's ability to step up," Leipold said. "I want to make sure I credit our coaching staff, the assistant coaches and the job they do in getting guys ready and keeping guys ready throughout the depth chart."
It also speaks to the depth and type of personalities Leipold and his staff have recruited.
"Everybody wants to play, everyone is impatient these days," Leipold said. "(It's important) to go about it in a professional manner, that you're getting yourself ready to play no matter the circumstance."
Leipold and the Bulls need continued strong play from the backups and the O-line that Leipold said has set them up well for UB to down the Broncos, the defending MAC West champs. Western Michigan, picked second in the MAC West in the preseason poll, is 3-2 and coming off a blowout in its MAC opener. The Broncos embarrassed Ball State, 55-3, and have also hung with USC and Michigan State this season.
Western Michigan poses a challenge to UB specifically as well, as the Bulls lost to the Broncos 38-0 last season. Some of Western Michigan's talent from that beat down is gone. Their coach, P.J. Fleck, left for Minnesota this offseason and wide out Corey Davis went fifth overall in the draft to the Tennessee Titans.
Even with the departures, Western Michigan is still among the cream of the crop in the conference. UB needs its biggest win yet this season to move to 2-0 in MAC play for the first time since 2013.
"Though maybe the coaching staff has changed and they've lost a few players in certain areas, it's still a very confident football team," Leipold said.