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Potato Skins

By Bob DiCesare

BOISE, Idaho -- Sophomore quarterback Joe Licata joined head coach Jeff Quinn and senior cornerback Najja Johnson for Friday's pre-game press conference and fired off a few quality lines.

Licata when asked why he chose football over basketball despite making more than 300 threes in high school: "I could shoot it, couldn't play much defense though. So I stuck with quarterback because I didn't have to play defense."

Licata on Khalil Mack: "He's pretty special. If you watched any of our games this year yu see the terror in the quarterback's eyes. I have to line up against him every day in practice and I don't like doing that. Luckily I don't have to play against him on Saturday when I don't have my red jersey on."

X X X

Johnson was asked about defending SDSU's balanced receiving corps. Wideouts Colin Lockett and Ezell Ruffin have combined for 112 catches, more than 1,700 yards and eight TDs.

"They do have talented receivers who are fast and physical but we feel like we're faster and even more physical than them," Johnson said. "We look forward to letting those matchups play out tomorrow."

X X X

San Diego State left tackle Bryce Quigley, a 6-5, 300-pound senior, on going up against Mack:

"He's a great player. I've watched him on film. He's athletic, fast, strong. He switches sides and I'll see him probably about half the time I would say."

X X X

UB won't come close to sell off its 2,000-ticket allotment for the game but athletic director Danny White isn't fretting it. He noted that during its final two hours the Potato Bowl will be the only televised football game in America, providing UB with a opportunity for widespread exposure.

X X X

Bronco Stadium and its ancillary facilities are the envy of the Mountain West Conference. Count San Diego State coach Rocky Long among the admirers.

"I see a program that started way back when as a junior college and -- I've done some research -- made calculated steps, step after step, moving up from junior college to NAIA to eventually I-AA and to Division I," Long said. "And they had built all the necessary resources to be successful at Division I as they went. And obviously they built on that. And going to those kind of BCS bowls allows you the financial resources to do some special things.

"If you look at all the facilities and those sort of things within our league . . . there's no comparison to this place and the other teams in our league. Absolutely no comparison. So the resources that they have give them huge advantages."

X X X

Quinn on UB's win over UConn earlier this year:

"That was a program-building win for us. We'd been at them for a number of years and that was a great win for us, a significant win. We certainly have established ourself in this particular season with this group of kids."

##

Potato Bowl -- Inside the Aztecs

Stefanie Loh covers San Diego State football for U-T San Diego. She agreed to field five questions concerning the Aztecs leading into Saturday's game against UB in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Here are her responses. You can get the story from the other side of the field this week by following Stefanie on Twitter @StefanieLoh.

1. The Aztecs rank last nationally in red zone defense and among the bottom 10 in turnover ratio. That hardly seems like a recipe for success. Yet they're 7-5 and have won seven of their last nine. How have they managed it?

SL: With late-game miracles. Somehow, this defense always seems to come up with the big plays when they need them most. It's logic-defying. Also, while they haven't stopped many teams IN the red zone, what they have managed to do in is force three-and-outs in critical situations, before the opponent can get to the red zone. The turnovers have hurt them this year, but the Aztecs have definitely shown that they can be tough to beat late in a close game.
 
2. The Famous Iaho Potato Bowl can't throw anything at Buffalo weather-wise that the Bulls haven't seen before. I'm guessing the same can't be said for SDSU. Do you envision the weather being a factor here?
 
SL: I think it's hard to say because the Aztecs haven't played in the cold very much this year. They did, however, prevail in the Air Force game, when it was about 50 degrees at kickoff, but dipped at least 10 degrees throughout the course of the game. Extreme cold might be rough though, especially if there's snow. The Aztecs haven't played in snow this season, so that might pose problems, especially on offense.
 
3. Running back Adam Muema's the primary back but freshman RB Donnel Pumphrey intrigues with his numbers -- a 6.1 average, 8 TDs. Has he been a surprise this year or did they come into the season expecting he could play a fairly significant role?
 
SL: Pumphrey has definitely been a surprise. They saw flashes of his ability in camp, but held back on naming a true No. 2 back until about three games into the season. However, with Adam Muema struggling with an ankle injury through the first quarter of the year, Pumphrey really came up big for the Aztecs when they needed him. Without him, they might have lost against New Mexico State and Air Force. 
 
4. The Aztecs go 6-2 in conference yet just one player ended up first-team all-MW. Is it a matter of the sum being greater than the parts? And what's the lowdown on safety Nat Berhe, their first-team selection?
 
SL: Absolutely. I think the best thing about this team this year has been the fact that they work very well as a unit. On offense, Kaehler has proved very efficient at distributing the ball among a number of different receivers. On defense, the linebacking corps as a whole has been solid, especially when you consider that their star middle linebacker, Jake Fely, suffered a season-ending injury against New Mexico State. Then, about three quarters of the way in, SDSU lost nose tackle Sam Meredith to a torn labrum. The loss of two of their three defensive starters up the middle made Aztec safety Nat Berhe even more important. Berhe is a versatile, athletic defender who plays the hybrid linebacker/safety position that's unique to Rocky Long's defense. He can help in run support, blitz, or drop back to cover receivers, and he's had to really hold his own and help direct the defense this year. 
 
5. Quarterback Quinn Kaehler has had his two roughest days of the season percentage-wise over the last three games. Is there anything to account for this slide? And is this basically a move-the-chains approach to the passing game?''
 
SL: The offensive line hasn't played very well in the last three games, and this has really hurt the Aztecs' rushing offense. They run a balanced offense but really rely on the run to open up the play action pass. That has limited Kaehler's effectiveness in the pass game. To answer the second question, yes, this is indeed a move-the-chains sort of pass game. The Aztecs use a lot of short and intermediate passes, and generally don't go for too many long bombs because Kaehler isn't the most strong-armed quarterback you'll ever meet.
 
-- Bob DiCesare

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.

The Kellen Moore Debate

TOLEDO -- I've no doubt Boise State QB Kellen Moore's Heisman material after watching him shred a banged-up Toledo defense for more than 400 passing yards Friday night. But pro material? I'm not so sure, not at 6-foot, less than 200 pounds and operating predominately in the shotgun spread. He's accurate, but I don't see the arm strength. Moore could win the Heisman -- he's a superb college player -- and then go fourth-round in the NFL draft. Meanwhile, keep an eye on the development of Toledo sophomore QB Terrance Owens. He's 6-4 and can bring it.

-- Bob DiCesare

Draft night

Mack-kemba ---Seth Davis provides draft profiles for 40 of the top NBA draft prospects in the country like UConn's Kemba Walker and Butler's Shelvin Mack, pictured right.

 ---The dreams of the members of this draft class are on hold, for reasons completely out of their control.

---Can Jimmer Fredette be an explosive scorer?

---Eric Williams off-season at Niagara has been rather painful.

---Former Binghamton coach Kevin Broadus has been hired by Georgetown as a special assistant coach.

---Boston University has finally hired a new coach.

---Former UCLA stars Ed O'Bannon and Baron Davis will be returning to Westwood this summer in order to complete their studies and recieve their degrees.

---Jason King details Mike Rice's efforts to resurrect Rutgers.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Which teams will go 12-0 or 11-1?

---Phil Steele examines which teams he thinks can go 12-0 or 11-1 this season, a few of which are UB opponents.

---With an $11.4 million cut in state appropriations looming, regents will vote on Eastern Michigan's annual budget. Combined with a possible $12 million increase in expenses, the school could face a $23.4 million shortfall.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Kelly ranked in ESPNU's Top 150

---St. Joe's quarterback Chad Kelly, who is being recruited heavily by UB, ranks 80th on ESPNU's Top 150 rankings. Kelly, the nephew of Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, is the No. 5 ranked QB on the list.

Kelly is also being recruited by Syracuse Clemson, Alabama, Florida State and Michigan State among others. Kelly and Rochester offensive tackle Jarron Jones are the only New Yorkers mentioned. Jones has already verballed to Penn State.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Chambers brings energy to Penn State

Chambers ---Pat Chambers, pictured left, believes he can change the perception that Penn State is a bad coaching job. Why Chambers got into coaching is a good story.

---Gary Parrish hopes that no coach patterns his coaching career after former Kelvin Sampson.

---Bob Knight calls some NCAA rules idiotic.

---Jason King previews the top junior transfers in 2011-12.

---Here's a list of the 12 most-hyped recruits ever.

---The movers and shakers from pre-draft workouts.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

A look at all FBS teams

---With the 2011 season slowly arriving, the Bleacher Report takes a peek at all 120 FBS teams.

---This is a few days old, but UB associate head coach Ernest Jones talks about former Bull Josh Thomas.

---UB athletic director Warde Manuel joins Allen Wilson, Joe Major and myself on The Sports Insiders at 6:30 tonight on www.weck1230.com.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Teachable moment for coaches

PARROTTA

---Big 4 coaches, like Canisius' Tom Parrotta, view the Ohio State scandal as a time to educate student-athletes about off the field issues.

---These assistant coaches will be head coaches soon.

---Doug Flutie a head football coach?

---Is Thursday night the right night for Syracuse's opener?

---Army to the Big East?

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

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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


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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