November 17, 2012 - 2:24 PM
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Injured running backs Branden Oliver and Devin Campbell are out for today's game against UMass. The absence of Oliver (ankle) and Campbell (back) thrusts Elma's Brandon Murie back into the starting role. Murie also drew the start Sept. 29 at UConn and rushed for 55 yards on 18 carries. He also had a 50-yard TD reception in that game through a special player involving a lateral from Alex Neutz.
UB's depth at the position has drawn lean. James Potts, the No. 2 back start the season, was lost for the year with a knee injury in Game Two against Morgan State. The Bulls list no other running backs on their depth chart.
As I wrote earlier in the week, TE Alex Dennison likely will serve as the backup/alternative option. Coach Jeff Quinn conceded this week he'd be unlikely to burn the redshirt of freshman Jordan Johnson (Sweet Home) this late in the season.
The Bulls have Wildcat packages with Dennision. They also have the option of using backup quarterback Alex Zordich situationally if the running game's stalling.
The sky's almost cloudless here today. Slight breeze. Perfect day for football. Would have be even better if they had started this game two hours earlier.
-- Bob DiCesare
November 17, 2012 - 12:43 PM
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Gillette Stadium is hopping early this afternoon with some kind of Battle of the Bands event. Just heard a medley of songs from The Lion King.
It's a 3 p.m. kickoff today, a strange time for a non-televised game. Why is UMass playing at Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots? Because its 17,000-seat on-campus facility needs upgrades to meet the approval of the Mid-American Conference. I'm told those could start in the spring.
I'll provide an update on UB's injury situation once it becomes available.
UMass is 1-9, 1-5 and coming off its first FBS victory as an FBS team, a 22-14 decision over Akron. UB is 3-7, 2-4 and looking for its first three-game winning streak since the 2008 championship season.
-- Bob DiCesare
November 11, 2012 - 11:35 AM
GAME ANALYSIS: Give credit where it's due. Bulls would have been at a loss without a pass attack once Western Michigan clamped down on the run after intermission. UB ran for just 19 yards in the second half. And that's where Joe Licata came in, completing 11 of 14 for 136 yards and a TD over the last two quarters. The simple truth is that UB doesn't win this one without a competent passing game.
TURNING POINT: UB freshman LB Jake Stockman forced a fumble on a sack of Alex Carder that Colby Way recovered with 3:28 remaining. It came one play after WMU's Eric Monette dropped a pass in the end zone.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cortney Lester's third interception of the day snuffed out Western Michigan's final opportunity with 1:12 remaining. He was also in on three tackles and broke up a pass.
STAT CHECK: The Bulls five takeaways were one fewer than they had in the first nine games of the season.
STAT CHECK II: There were 18 penalties called in the game, 11 of them against UB.
WHAT IT MEANS: UB has Back-to-back victories for the first time since 2009. The Bulls improved to 3-7 overall and 2-4 in the MAC. Western Michigan lost its chance to become bowl-eligible, falling to 4-7, 2-5.
THEY SAID IT: "It feels great. My heart, my soul, and my blood and tears are on this field. .. . I want to thank this team, this coaching staff, all you guys for allowing me to be on this field." -- Senior defensive end Steven Means after his final home game.
IN THE HOUSE: The crowd was announced at 11,012, the second largest of the four-game home stand.
NEXT UP: UB meets MAC newcomer UMass at 3 p.m. Saturday in Gillette Stadium. The Minutemen are coming off their first win, over Akron.
-- Bob DiCesare
November 11, 2012 - 11:20 AM
Bob DiCesare's MAC Power Rankings:
1. Northern Illinois -- Have home field for Wednesday's showdown with Toledo.
2. Kent State -- Dri Archer averaging 9.8 a rush.
3. Bowling Green -- Classic battle of great defenses with Kent on tap Saturday.
4. Ball State -- No one in MAC's played NIU tougher.
5. Toledo -- Fluellen's running wild but what happened to passing game?
6. Ohio -- Reeling and finish at Ball State and Kent.
7. Buffalo -- Did not allowed more than 25 points in last 5 home games.
8. Miami -- Gave up 400 on ground at home to Kent.
9. Western Michigan -- Carder rusty Saturday after 6 weeks out.
10. Central Michigan -- Jr. RB Zurlon Tipton over 100 in 4 straight.
11. UMass -- Romney envious of win in state of Ohio.
12. Eastern Michigan -- Eagles are like a box of chocolates ....
13. Akron -- Dalton Williams experiment set program back another year.
November 3, 2012 - 10:28 PM
UB 27, Miami 24
Game Analysis: UB's game plans were right on target. The offense rolled up 215 rushing yards and got solid pass support out of Joe Licata. The defense threw a lot of different looks at Miami QB Zac Dysert and played probably its best game of the season no matter what the point total says. And the special teams decided the game in the end, on Devin Campbell's kick return and Patrick Clarke's 47-yard FG to win it. Without Dysert threading needle after needle into oft-time exemplary coverage, the Bulls would had one this one without the dramatics.
Turning Point: UB knows all too well what it's like to look back on a game lamenting a play or two or three. This time, the regrets belonged to Miami. The RedHawks gave up the big kick return to Campbell after tying it up with 23 seconds left. Then Clarke gave UB its first win over an MAC or FBS opponent in almost a year.
Play of the Game: Tony Daniel's improvisation after mishandling a FG snap resulted in a first-down pass to Alex Dennison and eventually the go-ahead touchdown. Without that play Dysert takes over at the Miami 32, score tied, about 7 minutes left. Not good.
Unexpected Hero: Backup CB Marqus Baker broke up four passes and might not be a backup for long.
Stat Watch I: UB outrushed the RedHawks 215-98.
Stat Watch II: Miami scored TDs on three of its last four drives, the other ending with a lost fumble.
Never Before: That was the first time in its FBS history UB won a game in regulation on a walk-off FG.
He Said It: "As soon as I kicked it, as soon as it came off my foot, I knew it was good." -- Clarke on the winning FG.
In the House: Student support continues to wane. Attendance totaled 10,817.
Next Up: The Bulls wrap up their home schedule at 3:30 Saturday with a divisional crossover game against Western Michigan.
-- Bob DiCesare
November 3, 2012 - 10:11 PM
Bob DiCesare's MAC Power Rankings:
1. Northern Illinois: Have state's best Jordan since Michael.
2. Kent State: 7-game win streak longest in 72 years
3. Toledo: Need to get pass attack going again.
4. Ohio: Boykin adds another dimension to run game.
5. Bowling Green: Showdown at Ohio Wednesday.
6. Ball State: Could give Toledo fits this week.
7. Western Michigan: VanTubbergen 300+ passing in 3 straight.
8. Miami: Dysert can make ALL the throws.
9. UB: Hasn't won 2 straight since '09.
10. Central Michigan: Too pass happy for own good.
11. Akron: Big showdown with EMU Saturday.
12. Eastern Michigan: Loser Saturday worst team in MAC not named UMass.
13. UMass: Take it from UB, in 10 years it gets easier.
November 1, 2012 - 6:52 PM
Jeff Quinn has announced on his weekly radio show that Joe Licata will replace ailing Alex Zordich as UB's starting quarterback for Saturday's game against Miami. Zordich came out of the last game, against Toledo, late in the third quarter with an unspecified injury. It's believed to involve his ribs.
"He was hurt," Quinn said. "We just feel he needs to relax a little bit. We need to get him healed up. He was hurt. That's why he came out of the game. I didn't pull him out of the game because of ineffective play or I wasn't happy with Alex Zordich. He's our quarterback. He's our starting quarterback. But he was thinking of the team, that he wasn't able to perform to the level he expects.
". . . so this week we're going to go with Joe as our starting quarterback."
Zordich has completed just 51 percent of his passes -- well below the national average -- for 1,254 yards and nine TDs against seven interceptions. Four of those TD passes came in a 55-34 rout of FCS Morgan State on Sept. 8.
Licata, the former Williamsville South star, also threw a touchdown in the Morgan State game -- on his first collegiate pass -- but it's been rough going since. He's completed just 45.7 percent for two touchdowns and an interception. He was 5-11 for 86 yards and a TD against Toledo, with the scoring pass to Alex Neutz capping a 73-yard drive.
Zordich's strength has been in the running game. He's carried 100 times for 501 yards and UB's use of the zone option with Zordich at QB has made it difficult to key on the team's running back, typically Bo Oliver. Licata is far less of a running threat.
"Right before the end of the third quarter we did run Joe and he put his shoulder down, so Joe can run the ball," Quinn said. "Whether Zordich runs a little bit better or Joe throws . . . you know what, they're both tremendous competitors.
Quinn said Tony Daniel will be the primary backup Saturday with Zordich available on more of an emergency basis.
-- Bob DiCesare
October 31, 2012 - 11:05 AM
Where does the Mid-American rank among the nation's football conferences. The staff at CBSsports.com has bumped the MAC up to No. 5, ahead of the Big East and the ACC. Here's what it says:
"As we explained on Saturday in a bit more detail, this is a very special season for the MAC. If you include Ohio's loss to rival Miami, then MAC teams have taken down three undefeated opponents in the last two weeks. The league is second among FBS conferences with six teams already bowl eligible. There might be no MAC teams left in the polls, but I'll take Toledo, Kent State or Northern Illinois over most of the Top 25."
October 27, 2012 - 11:39 PM
Bob DiCesare's MAC football power rankings:
1. Northern illinois: Stopping Jordan Lynch more complicated than Illinois toll system.
2. Kent State: On a rampage. How did they lose to Kentucky?
3. Toledo: Offense sputtering of late but Fluellen's a horse.
4. Ohio: Weren't best team in MAC even before loss to Miami.
5. Bowling Green: 5 straight wins and 10 days to prep for Ohio.
6. Ball State: Dangerous and at Toledo next.
7. Miami: Dysert-to-Harwell Show visits UB Saturday.
8. Eastern Michigan: Why isn't Zurlon Tipton carrying 25+ every game???
9. Western Michigan: Just not the same without Carder.
10. Eastern Michigan: FBS win separates Eagles from rest.
11. Buffalo: Absence of passing game dragging Bulls down.
12. Akron: Dalton Williams is this year's Chazz Anderson ... for what that's worth.
13. UMass: At NIU next. Egad.
October 27, 2012 - 8:24 PM
Toledo 25, UB 20
Game Analysis: This one had an eerie resemblance to UB's 38-31 loss at Ohio. That game was tied late in the second half until the Bobcats put together a pair of scoring drives. This time UB had a 14-7 halftime lead but saw the Rockets go 73 yards on their first second-half possession, 86 yards on its second and 84 yards on its third. Meanwhile, the Bulls got pass-happy with the ball in the fourth quarter after Bo Oliver ripped off consecutive runs of 12, 8 and 10 yards. This from a team that says the run game is its identity.
Turning Point: UB called timeout after David Fluellen opened Toledo's second second-half possession with a 17-yard burst. Whatever was said won't make it into the realm of great inspirational talks. Fluellen went 49 yards on the next play and was in the end zone two plays later.
Player of the Game: Fluellen gouged the Bulls for 140 yards in the third quarter and finished with a career-high 228 yards and two touchdowns.
What It Means: Toledo (8-1, 5-0) could be looking at its first national ranking since 2001 after running its winning streak to eight games. UB (1-7, 0-4) remains a half-game out of last in the MAC East and hasn't beaten an FBS team in more than 11 months.
Stat Check I: UB punted 10 times but held Toledo's dangerous Bernard Reedy to just one return for minus-6 yards.
Stat Check II: Toledo kicker Jeremiah Detmer made five field goals in last week's upset of Cincinnati. Saturday he was 1 of 4 on extra points.
He Said It: ""I feel he's one of the better running backs in the country."" -- Toledo coach Matt Campbell on Fluellen.
In the House: It wasn't Canisius-St. Joe's. There may have been 2,500 in the house out of an announced crowd of 10,658.
Next Up: The Bulls continues their four-game homestand at noon Saturday against Miami and NFL QB prospect Zac Dysert. The RedHawks knocked off No. 22 Ohio Saturday.
-- Bob DiCesare