Kyle Vantrease will now run the University at Buffalo football team’s offense.
UB coach Lance Leipold said Tuesday that Matt Myers, who started the Bulls’ first five games at quarterback, will no longer play this season because of injury.
Vantrease will start for the Bulls (3-4, 1-2 Mid-American Conference) when they host Central Michigan (5-3, 3-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at UB Stadium.
“Officially, it’s been something we’ve been working through, for a while now, but probably a week ago we came to the fullest conclusion," Leipold said during his weekly news conference at Murchie Family Fieldhouse. “Kyle knows the situation. He’s seen what’s happened. He’s handled it.”
Myers, a redshirt freshman from West Seneca West, sustained an upper-body injury Sept. 28 in a 34-20 loss at Miami (Ohio) in UB's Mid-American Conference opener. Myers threw for 602 yards and six touchdowns on 49-of-105 passing, and was intercepted four times, but he has not played since he was injured last month, and has had a limited role in practice. A UB athletic department spokesperson told the News that Myers would not be eligible for a medical redshirt.
Vantrease completed 14 of 23 passes for 65 yards in UB's 21-0 win Saturday at Akron.
“I thought he played well,” Leipold said. “There’s a few throws you’d like to have back. I thought he threw late, over the middle, once.
“But I thought he showed great composure, good action. Ten for 14 in the first half. Our issue, now, is taking some of that growth … 10 for 14 for 49 yards in the half, you’ve got to get a little more out of that. That’s things that we continue to work on.”
Vantrease takes over the offense of a team that is tied for fourth in the MAC East Division with Bowling Green.
But the redshirt sophomore from Stow, Ohio, also has the challenge of continuing to diversify a passing game that is last in the MAC (894 yards in seven games) and 125th of 130 teams nationally.
“We need to improve on the consistency and the comfortability of the quarterback and the receiver, whoever is in there,” Vantrease said Tuesday. “I want to get better at being more consistent with the long ball, being more consistent with RPOs (run-pass options) and short passes, and we’ve been working on it. We’re going to be better.”
But, Vantrease added, “We’re going to play to our strengths. Every game, that might be different. Whatever it’s going to be, that’s what we have to dominate. If that’s pass, if that’s run, we have to go out every day and every week and in pregame, like we’re going to be the best we can be.”
Originally the backup to Myers, Vantrease became UB's punter after Evan Finegan was lost for the season due to a broken leg, sustained Sept. 7 in a loss at Penn State. Vantrease’s first college start at quarerback in nearly two years on Oct. 5 was productive. He threw for 197 yards and two touchdowns on 16 for 23 passing, and ran for 19 yards and a touchdown on six carries in UB’s 21-20 overtime loss against Ohio, but he sustained a foot injury that limited him during the bye week.
“Kyle has handled all the situations we’ve thrown at him this season really well,” Leipold said. “He was limited in the preparation during the open week. It wasn’t the full way of getting him going, but I thought this was a good step.”
Leipold said Trevor Bycznski and Dominic Johnson will back up Vantrease. Bycznski, a true freshman, has yet to play in a college game while Johnson, a redshirt junior, has one completion in four games. Johnson has played at holder and at wide receiver this season.
“We hope we can play Trevor in four games or under, so we can save the redshirt year, but at the same time, we think he has a bright future and a strong arm,” Leipold said. “Dominic Johnson handles whatever we asked him to do and doesn’t bat an eye. He’ll jump back in and do whatever he can do to help the team.”
To lead the Bulls in the second half of the season, Leipold said Vantrease must focus on the fundamentals of playing at quarterback.
“Execute the game plan,” Leipold said. “Become more accurate. Make great decisions. Ball security. Be a leader. Those are probably the quickest ones I can touch on. Getting the ball where it needs to be, in a place where guys can make a play. Doing all those things, but Kyle does that. He’s in there working at it.”