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UB football gameday: Bulls at Liberty

Kickoff: 6 p.m. Saturday, Williams Stadium, Lynchburg, Va.

TV: ESPN Plus

Radio: ESPN 1520

Records: UB 1-1, Liberty 0-2

Last time out: No. 13 Penn State defeated UB, 45-13. Bulls running back Jaret Patterson ran for 71 yards on 23 carries, and quarterback Matt Myers completed 16 of 31 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown, and was intercepted once.

Louisiana-Lafayette defeated Liberty, 35-14. Flames quarterback Stephen "Buckshot" Calvert completed 21 of 37 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown, and was intercepted once. Frankie Hickson ran for 133 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

History: Liberty leads the series 1-0. The Flames defeated the Bulls, 27-24, in Lynchburg on Oct. 24, 1998, when both teams were Division I-AA/FCS programs. This is the first meeting between UB and Liberty as Football Bowl Subdivision programs. UB became an FBS program and joined the Mid-American Conference in 1999, and the NCAA approved Liberty’s two-year FBS reclassification process in August.

Getting connected: Myers has thrown for 314 yards and three touchdown passes for the Bulls, and all three have been to tight ends: two to Zac Lefebvre (40 yards and three yards) in a 38-10 win Aug. 29 against Robert Morris, and a 6-yard pass to Julien Bourassa at Penn State. Myers has thrown passes to 10 players (six wide receivers, two tight ends and two running backs) in his first two starts, but against a team that has allowed an average of 181 passing yards in its first two games, the Bulls must continue to diversify their offense.

Ground game: UB running backs Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks have combined for 300 yards and a touchdown on 65 carries in the first two games, and the Bulls will continue to maximize their rushing efforts against Liberty. Liberty’s rushing defense has allowed 599 yards in the first two games (130th in the nation in rush defense, of 130 teams), including 407 yards on 46 carries at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Getting defensive: UB leads the MAC in rushing defense (113 yards per game), is second in pass defense (185.5) and is second in total defense, behind Bowling Green (295.5). Additionally, UB is one of 26 FBS teams that have given up one sack or less so far this season, prior to Friday’s games.

UB’s injuries: UB has lost punter Evan Finegan for the season after he underwent surgery on Sunday on a broken tibia and fibula in his right leg. Kyle Vantrease will become UB’s No. 1 punter, in addition to being the backup quarterback. Lefebvre is listed on the depth chart as UB’s starting tight end against Liberty, but he did not play in the second half last weekend at Penn State, as he was on the sideline on crutches. If Lefebvre is not available, the Bulls will turn to Bourassa, who scored his first college touchdown at Penn State.

For the foes: Liberty football has been in the spotlight more for what has been happening off the field than what it’s been doing on the field. First-year Flames coach Hugh Freeze’s medical issues have been well-documented since mid-August, after he underwent back surgery to treat what was described as “a potentially life-threatening” staph infection. Freeze coached Liberty’s loss to Syracuse from a hospital bed in the Williams Stadium press box, then sat in a dental/medical chair in the press box last week at Louisiana-Lafayette, after he was flown in from Lynchburg on a private plane on the day of the game. The News & Advance of Lynchburg (Va.) reported that the medical chair will be available for Freeze to use against Buffalo, and that Freeze is using a walker to get around.

On the field, Liberty is one of only two FBS programs to return a 1,000-yard rusher (Frankie Hickson), a 1,000-yard receiver (Antonio Gandy-Golden) and a 3,000-yard passer (Stephen Calvert) from 2018. Hickson has 162 yards on 29 carries and Gandy-Golden has 189 yards on 12 catches in Liberty’s first two games. Calvert threw for 3,068 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2018 and is 41-for-76 passing for 446 yards and a touchdown this season. But the Flames need to protect Calvert; he's been sacked 10 times, including seven by Syracuse in the season opener.

Solomon Ajayi, a linebacker and the younger brother of former NFL running back Jay Ajayi, and defensive end Jesse Lemonier lead the Flames with 14 tackles each, while Lemonier has 1.5 sacks. The Flames defense also has three interceptions, five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.

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