UB football looks to bounce back against Liberty

The Flames may be the Bulls' first true test this season

Jon Simon
September 12, 2019 - 8:16 pm

Photo: Scott Taetsch - Getty Images

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The University at Buffalo football team is looking to get back in the win column this weekend following a 45-13 loss to No. 13 Penn State last Saturday in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. 

The Bulls remain on the road and will head to Lynchburg, Virginia to take on Liberty University, one of the six independent programs currently in the FBS. The Flames currently sit at 0-2, following a Week 1 loss at home to Syracuse, a team that was No. 22 in the AP Top-25 at the time, and a loss on the road to Louisiana in Week 2.

Liberty should be a good test for UB. After playing an inferior team in Robert Morris Week 1 and then a nationally ranked power-five program in Penn State, the Flames are the first team the Bulls will take the field against in 2019 that appears to be on the same level as them, competition-wise.

UB currently boasts the top-rated rushing defense in the Mid-American Conference, giving up an average of 113 yards on the ground per-game, which also ranks them 44th nationally in rush yards allowed per-game. The Bulls' defense should be able to feast on the Flames’ rushing attack, that ranks 124th out of the 130 FBS teams, averaging just 69 yards per-game. 

Liberty has found a bit more success in the passing game. The Flames have averaged 228.5 yards per-game through the air so far this season, however, it hasn’t lead to many scores. With just 14 total points this so far season, all coming Louisiana, the Flames' offense ranks second-to-last in the nation in points per-game.

While the numbers favor the Bulls' defense, which is currently ranked 40th nationally in total yards allowed per-game with 299, head coach Lance Leipold believes his team shouldn’t let stats change the game plan.

“We try to tell our players, don’t get caught up looking at stats right now,” Leipold said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “Because Liberty has an explosive group and an explosive enough offensive scheme that they’re ready to break lose, and we have to make sure that doesn’t happen this week.”

The Bulls offense is still looking to truly find its form. Red-shirt freshman quarterback Matt Myers survived the rowdy environment inside Beaver Stadium last week, and even had the Bulls up 10-7 at halftime. While Leipold, and many others, were impressed with Myers and his performance, there is still much more room for the West Seneca native to grow.

“I can’t tell you how many texts and comments people have sent to me that watched the game, people in the profession, that were extremely impressed by the composure, let alone the ability of Matt Myers,” Leipold stated. “Now, he has to keep making those strides and doing those things to get better. You look at his jersey [on Saturday] and there were grass stains on both sides. He took some shots. He got up, kept battling, and kept throws. He threw the ball well downfield; got it to some different people, all those things. I’m very, very proud of him.”

If Myers does find himself in a situation where the passing game isn’t clicking, he should have no problem letting his running backs shoulder the offensive load. The Bulls rushing attack has racked up 469 yards on the ground through the first two contests, the most for UB in their first two games of a season since rushing for a total of 505 yards in 2012 through the first two weeks.

Sophomores Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks have been the spearheads of the rushing attack for the Bulls, accounting for 161 and 139 yards on the ground respectively. One of, if not both of them could be in for a big game on Saturday; the Liberty defense has so far given up an average of 299.5 rushing yards per-game, which ranks them last in the nation. In the Week 2 loss to Louisiana, the Flames gave up a total of 407 yards on the ground to the Ragin’ Cajuns.

After a solid first 30 minutes, Leipold admitted the game at Penn State got away from the Bulls in the second half. And while the defeat wasn’t as bad as it appeared on the scoreboard, the Bulls did suffer a big loss and will be without punter Evan Finegan for the remainder of the season after the sophomore suffered a broken right tibia and fibula following a blocked punt.

Finegan returned to campus on Tuesday and rejoined the team in good spirits. Leipold expressed his gratitude towards the UB and Penn State medical staffs and didn’t comment on much more in regards to the injury. He did, however, say that Finegan has been very mature about the whole situation and that they can’t wait to have him back. As far as the rest of the team, Leipold knows his guys will be thinking about their teammate going forward.

“When you talk with your team, you talk about making the most of opportunities,” said Leipold. “We prepare everyday to be the best. We don’t control when we don’t get to play this game anymore, unfortunately. So, when you’re in that competitive mind frame, you should attack it that way. When something like [Finegan’s injury] happens, hopefully you make the most of it. And the best way you can help Evan is prepare, go out, and play your best football, and let it go from there. I know Evan will be around to support the guys in any way he can until he’s back out there himself.”

Kickoff on Saturday from Williams Stadium is scheduled for 6 p.m. The game will can be heard on ESPN 1520, along with pre-game and post-game coverage. It will also be available on ESPN+ for subscribers.

You can also hear Leipold’s full press conference from Tuesday below.

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