The University at Buffalo football team is stepping into a new domain with Matt Myers as its quarterback.
Myers, a redshirt freshman from West Seneca West High School, will make his first college start when the Bulls open the season at 7 p.m. Thursday at UB Stadium against Robert Morris, an FCS program from Pittsburgh. He's the first freshman – redshirt or true freshman – to start at quarterback for the Bulls in a season opener since Cliff Scott in 1991.
The Bulls will be banking on Myers, who has yet to throw a pass in a college game, to lead an offense that lost its top five wide receivers from last season's 10-win team.
The biggest challenge for Myers, UB coach Lance Leipold said, is the unknown.
“There’s always going to be a lot of unknowns in that first quarter, in the first half of the game,” Leipold said. “And (it's) making sure that when we do see them, we’ve got good answers and he doesn’t let that affect him as we go through. I think that’s some of it.
“But I’m sure he’s going to be excited. I would say if you’re nervous a little bit, it’s good, because it means it's important and you want to do well. And, then, just settling in. But he’s got to get some snaps in game action again. The game gets a little faster and things happen, since the last time he was playing full-time, from the high school level on. But you need to trust your training and believe in what’s happening and, hopefully, through the course of the last year and a half, two fall camps and a spring practice, everything he’s studied, that he’s going to be ready to go.”
If Myers is nervous about a taking over an offense in transition, he is doing his best not to show it.
“As the week has gone on, I’ve definitely gotten a lot more comfortable with the offense and watching film on Robert Morris,” Myers said Tuesday. “I’m really excited. I can’t wait.”
Myers established himself as a dual-threat quarterback in 2017 at West Seneca West, where he passed for 2,397 yards and 24 touchdowns and ran for 1,037 yards and 22 touchdowns and led West to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A championship.
But as the Bulls’ No. 4 quarterback in 2018, he played in one drive: the final drive of UB’s 44-14 win in the regular-season finale Nov. 23 at Bowling Green, all running plays by the Bulls.
“Last year was a little different, knowing that three guys (quarterbacks Tyree Jackson, Kyle Vantrease and Dominic Johnson) had to go down before I could step in the game,” Myers said. “This year, it’s a lot more focused, a lot more film, so it’s definitely a little different than last year, but I’m locked in, no matter where I am, for sure.”
Myers will have to work with a group of wide receivers that has been hit by injuries in the preseason. Leipold said Tuesday during his weekly press conference that Jovany Ruiz, a walk-on from SUNY Fredonia, will miss the season after undergoing surgery on his right knee. Leipold also said that Antonio Nunn is currently “doubtful” for Thursday. Nunn is recovering from a leg injury that he sustained during preseason practices.
While Myers has to get adjusted to a faster pace of play and a new group of teammates, he has the benefit of playing against a program that went 2-9 in 2018.
“At the end of the day, it’s still football,” Myers said. “I have to go out there and do what my team needs me to do.”
UB will have five new captains this season: Running back Jaret Patterson, linebackers James Patterson and Matt Otwinowski, defensive end Ledarius Mack and offensive lineman Kayode Awosika. Jaret and James Patterson are sophomores, Otwinowski is a senior, Mack is a fifth-year senior and Awosika is a redshirt junior.