UB returns home to open MAC play

The Bulls host Eastern Michigan in a matchup of 2-0 teams

Jon Simon
September 14, 2018 - 2:52 pm

Photo: Jesse Johnson - USA TODAY Sports

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The UB Bulls football team is back at home this Saturday following their thrilling 36-29 win over Temple last weekend in Philadelphia, Pa. The Bulls will open up Mid-American Conference play this weekend as they host Eastern Michigan.

The Eagles come into Buffalo with a 2-0 record following their stunning, walk-off 20-19 win over Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind. Similar to the Bulls, Eastern will be looking to match their best start to a season since the 1980’s. The last time the Eagles were 3-0 was 1989. For UB, they’ll look to get to 3-0 for the first time since 1983.

“Chris Creighton is an outstanding coach,” Bulls head coach Lance Leipold said about his Eastern Michigan counterpart. “He’s done an outstanding job at Eastern. He’s worked his plan very well. He put them in a bowl game two years ago. A lot of respect goes out for him. They’re well coached and they don’t beat themselves very often. It’s going to take us to have a great week of practice and a focused week of practice, because we’re going to have to execute at a high level to win on Saturday.”

While UB’s team had a lot of hype surrounding them prior to the season’s start, EMU’s 2-0 record may seem like a bit more of a surprise. The Eagles don’t necessarily as much note-worthy, NFL-caliber talent that the Bulls have this year; but the Eagles have been solid defensively, allowing less than 20 points in their first two contests this season.

On the offensive side, EMU has a number of talented receivers. Senior Blake Banham has already tallied 14 receptions this season for 207 yards. Banham’s 99 receiving yards led the team in last week’s win over Purdue.

Another target Eagles quarterback Tyler Wiegers likes to throw to is junior Arthur Jackson III. Against Purdue Jackson III was target eight times and finished the game with six catches for 84 yards.

“I think they’re very consistent and multiple in their offense,”Leipold said. “But, when you look at them defensively, Max Crosby the defensive end is going to be the best defensive lineman we’ve played to date and he’s somebody we have to make sure we get a body on all the time. He can disrupt the game by himself.”

Crosby is certainly the player to watch out of any on Eastern Michigan. The junior has been named to the Bendarik Award Watch List, the honor given to the nations best defensive player each year. Crosby has also found his name on a number of other watch lists, including the Ted Hendricks award for the top defensive end.

The Bulls will need another strong outing from their offense in order to beat Eastern. Quarterback Tyree Jackson has had an excellent start to the year so far, the junior’s nine touchdown passes through the first two games is the most in school history; it also currently ties him for second in the nation in touchdown passes. Jackson’s success comes from his talent and great receiving corps, but the Bulls’ offensive line has protected him well. UB is one of only 12 teams in the country and the only team in the MAC to not give up a sack this season.

The offense will also need another good showing from the running backs. Coach Leipold said at Tuesday’s press conference it’s still too early for him to name a definite starter, but many of the Bulls backs have shown promise and have had success. Last week it was red-shirt freshman Kevin Marks who shouldered the load. Marks ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns against Temple.

On the defensive side, the Bulls are looking to bounce back after a tough second half against Temple. However, UB did keep the Owls off the scoreboard for almost the entire first half. But, Tyler Wiegers is fourth in the nation in completion percentage, meaning the secondary will need to be ready.

“We’ve just been locked-in in practice,” Bulls corner back Cam Lewis said. “We watched film yesterday and the day before, and we just realized that we can’t make the mental errors we did. If we stay locked in and do what we’re supposed to do everything will fall into place.”

Lewis had a breakout performance last week with two interceptions. This week however, fans should have their eyes on linebacker Khalil Hodge. The senior has been stamped as a potential NFL player and has been a standout since coming to UB from the City College of San Francisco. Hodge has racked up the most tackles in the nation over the last two seasons with 277 and is five tackles shy of 300. Hodge will certainly accomplish that goal this season and could very well hit the milestone on Saturday.

Kickoff at UB Stadium is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. You can hear the game along with pre-game and post-game coverage on ESPN 1520.

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