UB hosts Army with a shot at 5-0 start

The Bulls take on the Black Knights in their last non-conference game of 2018

Jon Simon
September 28, 2018 - 2:05 pm

Photo: Noah K. Murray - USA TODAY Sports


The UB Bulls will look to continue their hot start to the season this Saturday when they host Army (2-2) at UB Stadium. This will be the third matchup in the last three seasons between the Bulls and the Black Knights. In 2016, UB defeated Army at home 23-20 in overtime, while the Black Knights took last year's game in West Point, New York, 21-17.

With a win over Army, the Bulls would be 5-0 for the first time since 1980. Having previously beaten Delaware State, Temple and Rutgers, if UB were to beat Army it would be the first time in program history the Bulls defeat all their non-conference opponents in a single season.

Lastly, the Bulls would be on an eight-game win-streak with a victory over Army; this would be UB’s longest win-streak since 1898-99, the last time they won eight in a row.

Getting that eighth straight win will not be an easy task for the Bulls. Army will be coming into Buffalo with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, last week the Black Knights took No. 6 Oklahoma to overtime in Norman, Oklahoma but fell short 28-21.

Despite being 2-2, Army is a very solid team. They’re also very competitive on the road. The Black Knights have won five of their last 10 games away from West Point; and three of those five losses were to No. 8 Ohio State in 2017, No. 22 Duke this season and the previously mentioned Oklahoma game.

What stands out most about the Black Knights is their strong running game and famous triple option offense.

“Not only is the offense unique but they’re playing really well,” Bulls head coach Lance Leipold said earlier this week. “Their two losses are to top-25 teams and they just came close to beating the No. 5 team. That part we all know, we understand and respect. Our defense understands the huge challenge of having to be discipline, assigned and sound against that offense because they’re very good at complimenting all their plays. Playing against them is like playing a chess match; because they always have something else that they can go back to in that scheme. And when you least expect it then there’s the play action pass.”

Leipold admitted that preparing for the Army offense is tough, despite having seen it over the last two seasons.

“We’ve played them the last two years. It’s challenging [preparing for them],” Leipold explained. “What’s a little more challenging this year is that the game is a little bit later in the schedule. In the past we were able to incorporate more work during fall camp to dedicate to it because the came was coming sooner in the schedule.”

The Buffalo defense will need to put together a strong effort against Army, one similar to last week when they held Rutgers to 13 points.

Bulls linebacker Khalil Hodge will need to make a big impact for the Bulls. The senior has been the best player on the UB defense all season and received the MAC East Defensive Player of the Week award for his 15-tackle performance against Rutgers last Saturday.

“Each and every week, Khalil is important to us,” Leipold said. “But in a game like this with the run game and full back dive game and everything else along with quarterback runs, there are going to be a lot of things going on up front. It’s a real challenge for the front seven and everyone needs to tackle well. But for Khalil, true freshman James Patterson and senior Jordan Collier, it’ll be a good test for that group. It’s one they’re preparing hard for.”

Aside from the run game, Army’s offense also possesses the ball for long stretches of time. The Black Knights average time of possession is around 40 minutes, meaning the Bulls will either need to cut that time down, or make the most of their offensive opportunities.

“You have to maximize your possessions since there aren’t going to be as many,” Leipold said. “Executing on both sides is crucial, they’re going to maintain the majority of the time and total numbers of plays.”

Execution will be crucial for the UB offense. One thing the Bulls have done extremely well this year is they get up on their opponents early. UB has outscored the opposition 54-3 in first quarter of games so far this season.

The matchup between the UB offense and Army defense should be interesting. The Bulls have scored 35 or more points in each game this season. On the other side, in their last three games the Army defense hasn’t given up more than three touchdowns in regulation. Two of those games were against offenses that average over 40 points a game (Oklahoma and Hawaii).

“They give you a lot of multiple looks and try to confuse you with some things but at the same time they try to stay as sound as they can so they don’t give up big plays and try to be disruptive,” Leipold said on the Army defense. “Their whole philosophy is intertwined as well, their defense isn’t on the field as much, so they’re a little bit more fresh and don’t have to rotate quite as much. Because of that, their offense is partially a component of their defense and that’s going to be a challenge for us. Last year, we created some big plays and this year I think we can sustain some drives ourselves.”

If the UB offense can stay on the field and keep the Army defense on their toes, it should improve the Bulls’ chances at a victory.

The Bulls offense has really been spectacular this year, especially quarterback Tyree Jackson. The junior is currently tied for third in the nation for touchdown passes with 15. He’s also the only starting quarterback in the FBS to not be sacked this season.

Army will bring the Bulls their biggest challenge yet this year; and another strong performance from the offense will be needed.

“We just have to be patient and not press,” Bulls center James O’Hagan said. “We just have to make sure we maximize our possessions and every time we’re on the field we need to capitalize and view it as an opportunity to score.”

A few Bulls could reach big milestones on Saturday as well. Tyree Jackson is just 80 yards shy of eclipsing 5,000 passing yards for his career at UB, and Khalil Hodge needs four tackles to pass Khalil Mack (327) for eighth in school history in career tackles.

Safety Cam Lewis and Wide Receiver Anthony Johnson have both been dealing with leg injuries this week but are expected to play.

Kickoff from UB Stadium is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. You can hear the full game broadcast along with pre-game and post-game coverage on ESPN 1520.

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