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UB’s Clarke, Oliver snag MAC weekly honors

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

For all the trouble areas that have plagued the Bulls since 2009—and especially 2012—Saturday’s 27-24 home win over the Miami (OH) RedHawks was vindication of sorts, and the weekly MAC awards serve as evidence.

Buffalo kicker Patrick Clarke and running back Branden Oliver picked up “Special Teams Player of the Week” and “Offensive Player of the Week” honors, respectively, the conference announced today.

As Bob DiCesare of the Buffalo News mentioned in his game wrap post, Clarke’s game-winning 47-yard field goal with no time left on the clock was the first time in the University at Buffalo’s FBS history that a Bulls’ kicker won a game with a walk-off kick. It’s easy to flashback to last year’s 31-30 loss to Northern Illinois, where Peter Fardon squandered a game-tying extra point.

Without the services of graduated kicker A.J. Principe, arguably the best in school history, special teams has been a disaster area for the Bulls. Fardon and Jacob Schum combined for a carousel of pooch punts last year, while true freshman Tyler Grassman has shown a pretty weak leg this season. After Terrell Jackson’s injury last year, kick returns were an adventure to say the least. To say that UB’s special teams were and are the school’s biggest weakness wouldn’t be stretching the truth.

Although Clarke’s missed two tries from inside 30 yards this year, his strong finish to 2011 replacing Fardon and his clutch performance Saturday—combined with the fact that he’s just a sophomore—give Buffalo’s special teams hope for the future.

For Oliver, the individual honors are probably a little bittersweet after an injury-plagued season and the fact that the Bulls no longer have any chance to appear in a bowl game, but his workmanlike 199-yard rushing performance helped relax first-time starting quarterback Joe Licata and allow him to be effective in play-action, a boon for an offense that had relied so heavily on the read option under usual starting QB Alex Zordich. “Bo” is at least closer to 100% now after his second game follow his return from an MCL (knee) injury, and he’s poised for a massive finish to the season.

The win over upstart Miami (OH) is UB’s first FBS win since Nov. 19, 2011 when the Bulls smacked Akron 51-10. The previous win in 2012 came against FCS opponent Morgan State.

Buffalo (2-7) closes the home schedule at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Western Michigan, who is still missing starting QB and NFL prospect Alex Carder due to a middle finger injury on his throwing hand suffered Sept. 22. You can purchase tickets here.

(Header photo courtesy of Don Nieman from UB vs. Pitt game—full gallery here).

TAGGED: branden oliver, jeff quinn, mac east players of the week, miami oh, miami redhawks, patrick clarke, university at buffalo

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