International Bowl rematch Saturday: Bulls vs. Huskies
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • September 21, 2011 @ 8:00am
The Buffalo Bulls’ 2011 schedule has an eerie look to it. Remember the team the Bulls beat to advance to the International Bowl in the ‘08-09 season, the pinnacle of Buffalo’s time in Division I-A? Yep, Ball State, the team that narrowly knocked off Buffalo in Muncie last weekend. Then, Buffalo’s International Bowl opponent? Yep, the University of Connecticut—the team buoyed by steamrollin’ Donald Brown to a 38-20 victory. It’s no surprise, then, that Buffalo hosts UConn this Saturday (6 p.m., UB Stadium, single or season tickets here.)
In the two years since that International Bowl, Buffalo and UConn have met once: a 45-21 Huskies’ victory in East Hartford last September. Six turnovers stalled the Bulls’ offense—four interceptions and two fumbles—and the Huskies didn’t even need star runner Jordan Todman to suit up.
The tides have turned this year, though, as there’s no heavy favorite. Both teams awkwardly shuffle in at 1-2 overall, and both are reeling after nail-biting losses. Both teams are desperate for improvement in certain areas: the Bulls need a stronger, less leaky front four, while the Huskies need to settle on a quarterback. It’s likely that UConn will trot out three different signal callers on Saturday: trick-shot extraordinaire junior Johnny McEntee, and true freshmen Scott McCummings and Michael Nebrich. None of them should strike fear in the Bulls’ secondary, regardless of McEntee’s unbelievable trick shots.
The thunder and lightning combination of D.J. Shoemate, back from an ankle injury, and freshman sensation Lyle McCombs should keep Bulls’ defensive coordinator William Inge up late this week, as Buffalo’s inability to stop the run—Ball State’s Jahwan Edwards and Pitt’s Ray Graham have had career days against the unit—has played a major role in the team’s 1-2 record. With no true 3-4 nose tackle to clog running lanes, undersized veterans Richie Smith, Gordon Dubois and Wyatt Cahill must overachieve for the Bulls’ run D to be successful.
Buffalo’s offense is the strongest unit of the two teams and, despite the return from injury of defensive line stalwart Jesse Joseph, Chazz Anderson and the Bulls’ balanced attack should move the ball at will. If Buffalo can avoid an extended disaster like the first half against Ball State, they should snag a victory against the Big East opponent.
Prediction: Buffalo 31-28