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UB gets San Diego St. in Boise

By Bob DiCesare

UB will play its first bowl game since January of 2009 when it meets San Diego State of the Mountain West Conference in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) Dec. 21 in Boise, Idaho. The Bulls received word of their placement late this afternoon.

San Diego State went 7-5 overall, and 6-2 in the MWC, where it finished second to champion Fresno State in the West Division. The Aztecs feature a balanced attack led by junior QB Quinn Kaehler, 1,000-yard receiver Ezell Ruffin and 1,000-yard runner Adam Muema.

The Bulls and Aztecs had one common opponent, Ohio State. San Diego State lost, 42-7, in Columbus the week after UB was dealt a season-opening 40-20 loss by the Buckeyes.

UB (8-4) last played in a bowl after winning the 2008 Mid-American Conference championship. It met UConn in the now-defunct International Bowl in Toronto, with the Huskies prevailing, 38-20.

The bowl bid gives UB senior linebacker Khalil Mack one more chance at becoming the solo NCAA Division I-A career leader in tackles for loss. Mack is tied for the all-time mark with 75.

Mack wins Lambert Award

By Bob DiCesare

UB linebacker Khalil Mack received some more hardware for the trophy case with today's annoucement that he's the winner of the Jack Lambert Award presented annually by the Touchdown Club of Columbus to the nation's premier linebacker.

The award comes two days after Mack was named the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year and about a month after he became just the second player in UB history selected to participate in the Senior Bowl. Mack also is a finalist for the Dick Butkus Award, with announcement of that winner coming on or before Tuesday. The Butkus Award also goes to the nation's top linebacker.

Mack is the first MAC linebacker to capture the Lambert Trophy, created in honor of former Kent State standout Jack Lambert. The award has a storied history. Past winners are:

 

2012 Jarvis Jones Georgia
2011 Luke Kuechly Boston College
2010 Von Miller Texas A&M
2009 Ronaldo McClain Alabama
2008 James Laurinaitis Ohio State
2007 James Laurinaitis Ohio State
2006 Patrick Willis Ole Miss
2005 A.J. Hawk Ohio State
2004 Derrick Johnson Texas
2003 Jonathan Vilma Miami (FL)
2002 E.J. Henderson Maryland
2001 Rocky Calmus Oklahoma
2000 Dan Morgan Miami (FL)
1999 LaVar Arrington Penn State
1998  Dat Nuygen Texas A&M
1997 Andy Katzenmoyer Ohio State
1996 Pat Fitzgerald Northwestern
1995 Simeon Rice Illinois
1994 Derrick Brooks Florida State
(tie) Dana Howard Illinois
1993 Trev Alberts Nebraska
1992 Marvis Jones Florida State
1991 Eric Anderson Michigan

 

The Lambert Award will be presented to Mack during the Touchdown Club of Columbus awards dinner Feb. 8.

Mack set one NCAA career record and tied another during a standout senior season that has vaulted him into the upper tier in many NFL Draft projections. He set the record for career forced fumbles (14) when he produced three during UB's late-season victory over Miami (Ohio. He tied the career mark for tackles for loss (75) in the regular-season finale against Bowling Green and presumably will get a chance to take sole possession of the record in a postseason bowl game. UB expects to learn its bowl fate no later than Sunday night.

 

Sizing up Black Friday RBs

By Bob DiCesare

Stand them side by side and there’s little similarity between the UB’s Branden Oliver and Bowling Green’s Travis Greene, the two workhorse running backs in the Black Friday showdown at The Ralph.

Oliver, a senior, goes 5-foot-8, 208 pounds and looks like he could win a head-on collision with a Dodge Ram. Greene, a sophomore, goes 5-10, 176 and looks like he should be playing wide receiver.

Size hasn’t mattered. Greene has carried 205 times for 1,293 yards and nine touchdowns this season and is within striking distance of the school single-season record for rushing yards. No other running back on the roster has carried more than 45 times, although the Falcons typically turn to 260-pound William Houston (11 TDs) in goal-line situations.

When did BG coach Dave Clawson, a Youngstown native and former Lew-Port quarterback, know he had something special in Greene?

Continue reading "Sizing up Black Friday RBs" »

Solich on BG Defense

By Bob DiCesare

Ohio coach Frank Solich is in his 15th season as a head coach, his ninth at Ohio. A Bobcats program that was in tatters before his arrival  is bowl-eligible for a fifth straight season (although it's ending the regular season on the skids). Looking ahead to Friday's showdown at The Ralph, I asked him on this week's MAC coaches conference call what makes Bowling Green such a formidable defensive team. Here's what he had to say:

"The last two years we’ve played them they’ve been an excellent football team, maybe arguably the best in the MAC. i think a combination of things. I think they’ve got very good personnel and so when you have excellent personnel and you’re a football team that’s not prone to mistakes, not prone to breakdowns, you’re very gap oriented, your coverages, you don’t have breaks in them, and you’re playing with good players, then you’re tough to beat.

Continue reading "Solich on BG Defense" »

UB's Mack: "I'm Blessed"

By Bob DiCesare

UB senior Khalil Mack displayed his customary humility today in reacting to the announcement he's been named one of five finalists for the Butkus Award presented to college football's top linebacker.

Mack gave credit for him making the cut to his teammates and coaches while attending coach Jeff Quinn's weekly news conference at UB Stadium today. Mack has maintained all season that his success has been a product of those around him, especially Quinn and defensive coordinator Lou Tepper.

"It’s a blessing," Mack said. "It’s a tribute to coach Quinn, coach Tepper, all the coaches that have made it happen. I’m blessed. I can’t say anything other than I’m blessed. And thankful."

Mack is the only one of the five finalists who plays outside a BCS AQ conference. Also in contention for the award are Anthony Barr of UCLA, C.J. Mosley of Alabama, Ryan Shazier of Ohio State and Shayne Skov of Stanford. Shazier, a junior, is the lone non-senior in the group.

The winner is scheduled to be announced on Dec. 10. The award panel consists of 81 coaches, scouts and journalists.

 

Redden Close to Returning

By Bob DiCesare

UB may have linebacker Adam Redden back on the field when the Bulls play their final regular-season road game of the year Tuesday night at Miami. Redden, a two-time MAC East Defensive Player of the Week, suffered a knee sprain in the second quarter of the Oct. 26 game at Kent State. He was the Bulls second-leading tackler behind Khalil Mack at the time of the injury.

"He’s progressing extremely well," Bulls coach Jeff Quinn said at today's media session. "Will he be ready to play Tuesday night? I had a great conversation with him yesterday and he said he is, he’s ready. And I know in his heart and in his mind he is. We’ll just have to wait and see how well he’s able to hold up this week. But he keeps getting better. He keeps progressing. We’re going to see Adam before this season ends and hopefully will see him sooner rather than later."

 

 

Kiper on Khalil Mack

By Bob DiCesare

Here's what ESPN's NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had to say about UB linebacker Khalil Mack on a conference call today: Bills beat writer Mark Gaughan listened in.

"I've liked Mack from the get-go and had a high grade on him from the start," Kiper said. "He's maintained that. He hasn't fallen back at all. On my big board he's at No. 7. He's got everything you want . . . I'd put Mack ahead of some ofher guys just because of his physicality, his talent, his production. He's got a chance to be a top 10 pick . . . Khalil Mack is solidly I think in the top 10 overall."

NFL scout have had a constant presence around UB dating to training camp. Arizona Cardinals GM Steve Keim attended Tuesday's game at Toledo and scouts from five other teams requested seats.

Mack tied his career high with 15 tackles against the Rockets and remains in close pursuit of the NCAA career records for forced fumbles and tackles for loss.

UMass Inching Forward

By Bob DiCesare

You can look back at UB's 29-19 victory over UMass at Gillette Stadium last November as one of the turning points for the Bulls.

UB came in playing well, just as it is this year. UMass was coming off its first win of the season (over Akron, just as it is this week (over Miami). UB trailed that game, 13-0, and needed to score the final 22 points to put the Minutemen away. The ability to come back on the road under a redshirt freshman QB in Joe Licata was a major confidence boost to a team that had struggled mightily away from UB Stadium.

Can UB get away with a similarly dreadful first half in Saturday's 3:30 matchup at UB Stadium? It would be a high-risk proposition. UMass is making headway in its second year in the MAC.

"Our team has more experience than it did a year ago," UMass coach Charley Molnar said Monday. "We were new at that winning thing after the win over Akron. Believe me, we didn’t go into the next game thinking that we had it figured out. . . . We didn’t have the depth that we have today and we didn’t have the experience that we have today. . . . We still have a ways to go from a maturity standpoint. We still have a ways to go from a depth standpoint. But we’re in a better position today than we were a year ago at this time."

Molnar and UB coach Jeff Quinn were on Brian Kelly's staffs at Central Michigan and Cincinnati.

Striggles to Miss a Half

By Bob DiCesare

Defensive back Dwellie Striggles will sit out the first half of Saturday's game at Western Michigan for his participation in an altercation and disqualification from UB's game against Eastern Michigan.
Okoye Houston and Tomarris Bell, also DQ'd, escaped further disciplinary action as secondary participants.

"The ejections have been addressed with the MAC office, Danny White, myself," coach Jeff Quinn said. "Dwellie Striggles will sit out the first half of this upcoming weeks game against Western Michigan but will play. No further action will be taking place with Okoye Houston and Tomarris Bell.

Zordich Status Up in Air

By Bob DiCesare

UB backup quarterback Alex Zordich did not participate in today's practice after suffering a concussion during Saturday's 42-14 victory over Eastern Michigan at UB Stadium. Zordich came on for starter Joe Licata late in the third quarter of the lopsided victory and played two series before giving way to Tony Daniel.

Bulls coach Jeff Quinn said Zordich is feeling better and can't be ruled out for Saturday's game at Western Michigan. However, typically a player has to be symptom-free for a week before being cleared.

Meanwhile, running back Anthone Taylor is practicing again after serving a two-game suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules.

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About Campus Watch

Bob Dicesare

Bob DiCesare

Western New York native Bob DiCesare covers UB football, Big 4 basketball and writes an occasional column. He still holds a grudge against Chris Ford who, he's convinced, cost St. Bonaventure the 1970 NCAA basketball championship.

@TBNDicesare | bdicesare@buffnews.com


Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic began his journalism career in 1989 after graduating from the University of Cincinnati and has worked for The Buffalo News since 2001. A proud father of four children, he enjoys reading in his spare time.

@RodneyMcKissic | rmckissic@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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