Last season, SUNY Buffalo State football earned its second trip to a bowl in three years and bounced back from a .500 campaign in 2016.
Unfortunately for the Bengals, their trip to the ECAC Chapman Bowl was one to forget. The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy sped past them, running for 419 yards in a 35-20 victory.
Can the Bengals regroup and take the next step, earning a bowl victory for the first time since 2014? That might be a tall task as Jerry Boyes' team needs to revamp in his 25th season at the helm.
2017 record: 6-5 overall
Conference: Empire 8. Buffalo State went 3-4 in conference play last year.
Top offensive returners: The Bengals only return four offensive starters and only two at skill positions, wide receiver Jamar Rutledge (McKinley) and tight end Jevon Megna (North Tonawanda). Gone is quarterback and former Orchard Park Quaker Kyle Hoppy, who threw for 2,321 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. While the competition to replace him is still open, the top returner of the bunch is another local, former Sweet Home passer Kevin Torrillo. He threw for 366 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in four games last season.
Top defensive returners: Four starters return on the defensive side as well, including cornerbacks Darren Thompson and Elloheim Tucker. Each snagged an interception last year. Defensive tackle Dametrius Brown returns after finishing second on the team with 71 total tackles. Safety Nicolas Calle, who recorded 43 tackles last season, rounds out the group.
Last hurrah: This year is the last in the Empire 8 for the Bengals, who will move to the Liberty League for 2019. That doesn't mean longtime rivalries with St. John Fisher, Brockport and Cortland are ending, however. The commissioners for the Empire 8 and the Liberty League have worked out a connected schedule between the two conferences from 2019 through 2022.
Buffalo State will join Hobart, Ithaca, Rochester, RPI, St. Lawrence and Union in the Liberty League.
Road warriors: The Bengals kick off the season with three consecutive road games for the first time since 2015. They'll leave the state twice during the stretch, visiting Bridgewater, Mass., and Adrian, Mich.
Looking up: Buffalo State's I-90 Bowl rival, Empire 8 foe Brockport, made a run to the program's first NCAA Division III Tournament semifinal appearance before falling to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. The Golden Eagles crushed the Bengals, 33-0, on Buffalo State's homecoming. Eleven Empire 8 all-league selections return from that team, making the Bengals' October trip to Eunice Kennedy Shriver Stadium a daunting one.
Sept. 1 at Bridgewater State, noon
Sept. 8 at Adrian, 1 p.m.
Sept. 22 at RPI, noon
Sept. 29 Hartwick, noon
Oct. 6 Alfred, 6 p.m.
Oct. 13 at Cortland, 1 p.m.
Oct. 20 at Brockport, TBA
Oct. 27 Morrisville State, noon
Nov. 3 Utica, noon
Nov. 10 at St. John Fisher, 1 p.m.