Of all the remarkable statistics the University at Buffalo football team has posted in its first four games, one jumps out: The Bulls have yet to allow a sack of their quarterback.
UB is the only team in the nation that has not allowed quarterbacks Tyree Jackson and Kyle Vantrease to get smothered by an opposing defense when the ball is in their hands. The offensive line looks to continue that streak when the Bulls (4-0) host Army at noon Saturday at UB Stadium (CBS Sports Network).
At 6-foot-7, Jackson wields plenty of size and mobility to maneuver away from swarming defenders. But the diligent work the Bulls' offensive line does off the field is just as much of a factor in protecting the quarterback.
“There’s a lot of factors that come into play when you talk about not giving up a sack,” said James O’Hagan, a fifth-year senior and starting center. “But the thing that helps us is that we do a tremendous job preparing for our opponent and knowing what they’re going to do. A lot of film study, understanding and recognizing something you’re weak at.
“We’ll understand, 'We’re not that great at this, so we’re going to work on this this week. That’s something a team could try and attack us with.' Over the last couple weeks, we’ve been able to stifle what they’ve been bringing."
When the Bulls play Army, they’ll face a team with an offensive line almost as airtight. The Black Knights (2-2) have yielded just one sack on quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr., and they’re one of four teams in the nation to allow only one sack.
For a basis of comparison, New Mexico State ranks last in the FBS with 18 sacks allowed in four games. Kent State is last in the MAC with 17 sacks allowed. Alabama, the No. 1 team in this week’s AP Top 25 poll, has allowed three sacks in four games.
UB coach Lance Leipold noted the growth, maturity and diligence of the offensive line when it comes to preparation and execution in protecting the quarterbacks.
“This group has seen a lot, and there’s a lot of different ways that people do things,” Leipold said. “But at the end, now, through seeing different things, studying it and recognizing it, now it’s not foreign to them."
Leipold singled out the work of O’Hagan, who has turned the offensive line meeting room into a second home of sorts. Leipold said O'Hagan is at the football offices more than any other player.
“He’ll do his homework there,” Leipold said of O'Hagan, who has started all 40 games since Leipold became UB's coach.
O’Hagan’s habits have rubbed off on the Bulls’ starting linemen: left tackle Evin Ksiezarczyk, left guard Paul Nosworthy, right guard Tomas Jack-Kurdyla and right tackle Kayode Awosika. So has the approach that offensive line coach Daryl Agpalsa has used to refine the unit.
“He’s not an old-school offensive line coach that’s going to motivate through fear or yelling,” Leipold said. “He’s as good a teacher as we have and you need that in today’s college football at the offensive line position.”
Notes: UB wide receiver Anthony Johnson and linebacker Cam Lewis sustained leg injuries Saturday in a 42-13 win at Rutgers, but Leipold said their playing status against Army had not been determined as of Monday afternoon. Johnson has 308 yards and three touchdowns on 18 catches, and Lewis has 12 tackles, two interceptions and two pass breakups. … Jackson has 15 touchdown passes in four games. He is tied for third in the nation with Houston quarterback D’Eriq King. … This will be the seventh time UB has faced Army, and the third consecutive season. Army defeated UB 21-17 in 2017 at West Point, and UB won 23-20 in overtime in 2016 at UB Stadium. ... Only end zone general admission tickets remain, a UB spokesman said.