For my answers to Bull Run's questions, click here.
Jimmy Kelley, Hustle Belt: Buffalo has been rolling lately, blowing out its last three opponents. What has been the biggest key to the Bulls' offense over that stretch?
J. David Brand, UB Bull Run: First of all not going against Ohio State and Baylor sure helped. The biggest aspect was getting Bo Oliver going. Oliver was injured and did not appear against Stony Brook and that game could have gone either way. Bo has an outside shot of setting UB’s all-time rushing record this week if he carries the ball for 154 yards. Bo will pass Green Bay’s James Starks. With Bo going it has provided Buffalo QB Joe Licata time in the pocket to take shots. Licata has not put up gaudy numbers but more importantly is not turning the ball over. Right now UB is second in the NCAA with a +10 in turnovers. Licata did throw three TD’s last week against WMU. Secondly, UB is starting to get other players to step up to catch the ball besides Neutz. The team has a great balance right now lead by teams having to try to stop Oliver. Stack the box and Licata will find someone to catch the ball. Try to stop Neutz and Oliver will rip off a 60 yard TD.
HB: We all know about Branden Oliver and Alex Neutz. Is there anyone flying under the radar that UMass should be on the look out for?
BR: Fred Lee is a senior WR who has not lived up to the expectations set for him. I put a good part of that blame on having four different QB’s start the season during his career and all struggled before the consistency UB has now with Licata. With teams focusing on stopping the run and placing extra cover on Neutz, Fred has stepped up. Caught a beautiful TD pass last week. Schreck a TE is starting to become a factor and watch the poise and patience of QB Licata. Licata has only started 10 games and is only a sophomore but is playing like a seasoned veteran.
On the defense, lineman and linebackers are bringing it. Johnson, DB, is a great corner cover who has three interceptions already this year. The linebackers are taking advantage of teams scheming to limit Mack and players like Bean (who missed last week due to injury) and this week’s MAC East defensive player of the week Colby Way have been playing lights out.
HB: Khalil Mack is the best linebacker in the MAC at almost every facet of the game. Is there a way to contain him? Or is all hope lost?
BR: All hope is lost. He really is a very special player and some draft boards have Khalil selected in the top ten. He may not go that high but he will be a first round selection. Some boards have Mack going to Buffalo at 14. He is just a hard working player who is technically proficient and a great drive to succeed. Interesting enough is that Mack did not have one Div. 1 offer until UB. A coach who was hired away from Liberty (ironic that past UB Coach Turner Gill who offered the scholarship is now at Liberty) said you may want to have a look at this guy as he planned on attending FCS Liberty. UB scooped him up and that was the best scholarship offer in UB’s history. Watch your team throw two and at times three players to help contain him. He is opening amazing mismatches for other UB players to make plays. You will be amazed how fast Khalil gets into the backfield. If you have not seen his interception again Ohio State, watch it here.
HB: Which individual player on UMass is Buffalo most concerned about?
BR: Buffalo has been suspect on giving up yards through the air. I saw the great performance Tajae Sharp had against Kansas State and he can have a big game if you can contain UB’s pass rush. Who really scares me is Rob Blanchflower. Great size at 6-5 260 lbs, who can find space and he runs really well. I see that he is being projected to be selected in the third or fourth round this May. He needs to be more consistent catching the ball. UMASS should be able to move the ball in the air.
You have an emerging runner who reminds me of Bo Oliver in Wilson. Not the pure burner but hits the hole very fast, is elusive, and fights for additional yards. You have a nice combo in Bedell and Wilson. UB has great depth at running backs as well and even more impressive for UMASS is losing your starter Jordan Broadnax to injury.
HB: What is your prediction for Saturday's game?
BR: I was surprised to see UB a 20.5 point favorite. I do expect UMASS to have a better effort than Western Michigan last week as UB blanked them 33-0. This team is as balanced as any team UB has ever had. The offense is clicking, the defense is aggressive and dictating the game, and the special teams who has been a nightmare the past four years is working. UB has a kicker with a strong leg you can easily hit from past 50 but has not been consistent.
I see this game as UB 34 – UMASS 7. Sorry Charley.