Buffalo shuffles off to Nevada
September 16, 2004
RENO – University of Buffalo, winless in two starts this season and mired in a 12-game losing streak, is making the longest road trip in school history when it visits Nevada tonight (6:05 p.m.) at Mackay Stadium.
While the Mid-American Conference Bulls may seem like easy pickings at first glance, Nevada (1-1) isn’t good enough yet to take any team lightly,
“They’re big,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said of the 0-2 Bulls. “They were ahead of Syracuse until they had two punts blocked.
“This is going to be a good test for us. They have 46 lettermen back, including 16 starters.”
Buffalo may be experienced, but the Bulls are suffering through the growing pains of going from a Division 1-AA team in 1993 to a Division 1-A team starting in 1999. The Bulls are 5-32 under current coach Jim Hofher, the former Cornell head coach.
“It (the support) has been great,” Hofher said. “You can clearly see a difference from five years ago. A program like Syracuse comes in, and we even had a lead until we got two punts blocked in a row.”
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Indeed. The Bulls led Syracuse 10-3 until getting back-to-back punts blocked which Syracuse turned into scores en route to a 37-17 win. Granted, Syracuse isn’t a powerhouse this year, but the Big East is still the Big East.
Buffalo’s defense, led by free safety J.J. Gibson and defensive end Aaron Sanders, has been improving. Gibson has a team-leading 21 tackles and Sanders has eight tackles and two sacks.
‘We’ve gotten better defensively from where we’ve been,” Hofher said. “This is the most experienced defense we’ve ever had going into the season.”
It’s became an opportunistic defense. In Buffalo’s first 57 games at the 1-A level, the Bulls returned just one fumble for a score, and that was last season against Akron. In two games this season, the Bulls have taken three fumbles for scores, including a 57-yarder by Gibson last week.
Hofher has been impressed with what he’s seen of Nevada’s offense.
“I think Nevada is a sound football team offensively and defensively,” Hofher said. “They have excellent balance on offense; run and pass. We’re going to have to defense both hard.
“There is soundness to their attack. Their quarterback (Jeff Rowe) has played very well. He’s made an awful lot of very nice throws.”
Rowe, who has thrown for 415 yards and four scores the last two weeks, will make his third straight start, but Ault indicated that Travis Moore would play again. Moore is 9-for-11 passing for 115 yards and two scores.
“I’ll do that the whole year if we can,” Ault said. “Travis has done well. He has a great attitude. It’s good competition between them.”
And, the three-man rotation of senior Chance Kretschmer, junor B.J. Mitchell and redshirt freshman Drew Robinson has been impressive. Robinson (106) and Kretschmer (102) both went over the 100-yard mark. Nichiren Flowers and Caleb Spencer have been Rowe’s favorite targets thus far.
Hofher, meanwhile, will continue to play both of his quarterbacks, too. Senior Randall Secky (6-4, 218) has completed 25 of 59 pass attempts for 218 yards and one score, and junior P.J. Piskorik (6-0, 215) is 9-for-16 passing for 80 yards.
“I’ve never gone into a season with more than one quarterback returning from the year before,” Hofher said. “This is the first time I’ve had two guys back that have played significantly. Each has had their turn under fire. The competition has been better, and I know we’re more experienced. We need to play better at that position though.”
Buffalo does run some option, and of the two quarterbacks, Piskorik is the better runner of the duo. The Bulls have four returning backs – Dave Dawson, Chris McDuffie, Steven King and Jare Patterson – and all of them have seen extensive action.
The option is sometimes a tough offense to get ready for, but Nevada linebackers Scott Garrison and Jeremy Engstom said they’ll be ready.
“It’s all about playing disciplined, assignment football,” Garrison said. “You can’t have all 11 guys going to the football.”
“It’s nothing we haven’t seen,” Engstrom said. “Louisiana Tech ran a few option plays, so that was someting we had to prepare for. It’s just a matter of doing your job, and not worrying about anybody else.”
Hofher said the Bulls will never be confused with Air Force when it comes to its offense. The Bulls are averaging 117 yards rushing per game, and use the option as a change-of-pace.
Defensively, Nevada was outstanding last week. Tackle Chris Barry and defensive end Charles Wilson made big plays. Barry has 10 tackles, including three sacks, and Wilson, who made his starting debut last week, has five tackles, a sack and two fumble recoveries.
“He (Wilson) has really surprised me,” Ault said. “He’s done a nice job. He’s given us good, good effort.”
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281.