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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.

UB-Bona Game Wrap

UB 78, St. Bonaventure 73

How UB Won: The Bulls came upon the key to Bona's defensive vault down the stretch. Threes by Josh Freelove, Will Regan, Shannon Evans and Jarryn Skeete turned a 66-60 deficit into a 72-69 lead that held. The Bulls went 6 of 11 from behind the arc in the second half while Bona was 1 of 10 for the game.

Turning Point: Beside the barrage of threes? Bona led by two when senior 2 guard Matthew Wright suffered a leg injury with 14:50 left. He did not return. The Bonnies could have used him in a big way.

UB Player of the Game: Freshman guard Shannon Evans has made huge strides since his college debut about a month ago. He went for a career-high 17 points, came up with two of UB's five steals and turned it over just twice in 24 minutes.

Bona Player of the Game: Point guard Charlon Kloof is a warrior. He led the Bonnies in points (17), assists (five) and played a game-high 37 minutes. Kloof had a lot on his shoulders with Wright and Jordan Gathers out of the lineup.

Stat Check: Bona went just 24 of 38 from the foul line. As coach Mark Schmidt noted, that doesn't cut it, especially on the road. UB was 28 of 32.

Eye Opener: UB's Javon McCrea had just three field goals but his soaring left-handed jam off an Evans miss was flat-out scary.

Rarity: This was UB's second win in the eight meetings between the teams and its first at Alumni Arena. The Bulls hadn't beaten the Bonnies since 1996.

Sreaking: That's four straight wins for UB.

Records: UB improved to 4-2. Bona slipped to 6-3.

In the House: Nice crowd of 4,652. Be interesting to see how all these Saturday afternoon games work out as the season progresses.

Next Up: UB plays Canisius at 8 p.m. (ish) Wednesday in the First Niagara Center in the nightcap of a doubleheader that begins with Niagara-Davidson at 6. The Bonnies open a three-game road swing Saturday at Iona.

-- Bob DiCesare

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.

UB-Texas A&M Game Wrap

Texas A&M 82, UB 58

How UB Lost: The Bulls took a step up in class and hung tough for 27 minutes but couldn't overcome the foul predicaments that limited the playing time of Jarod Oldham and Javon McCrea. The score suggests they were outclassed but they weren't.

Turning Point: UB trailed 51-49 when McCrea was hit with his fourth foul with about 12 minutes left. The offense struggled in his absence and soon the snowball started rolling.

Stat Check: UB was outscored 48-26 in the paint and 20-8 off turnovers.

Tough Start: Foul trouble pushed true freshman guard Shannon Evans into 22 minutes of action in his college debut. Against an SEC team. On the road. It wasn't his night. He went 0 for 5 from the field and turned it over a game-high five times. He'll shake it off.

Out of Whack: Will Regan never got it going on the offensive end and became a defensive liability when the Aggies went small and quick. He had one trey and five rebounds in 18 minutes and just never got into the flow.

Impressive: Forwards Justin Moss and Xavier Ford combined for 13 points and nine boards off the bench. The X-Man, a junior, played with a newfound enthusiasm and confidence (and sometimes too much of both) but it looks like this offensive style is to his liking. Moss, a beast, should be a big asset in MAC play.

In the House: All of 4,969 came out to see the first hoops game of the season. That's about one-third of the number camping out in the parking lots awaiting Saturday's football game.

You Know It's a Football School When: The final stat sheet shows six players logging over 40 minutes.

What It Means: That the Bulls aren't going unbeaten in Bobby Hurley's first year as coach. Twenty-seven regular-season games to go.

Next Up: UB's at Niagara Wednesday night. It'll be louder at Taps than it was at Reed Arena (a very nice facility, by the way).

-- Bob DiCesare

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.

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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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