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Know Your Foe: Buffalo Bulls

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Penn State welcomes a Buffalo team looking to replace a ton from a year ago.

NCAA Football: Dollar General Bowl-Buffalo vs Troy John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

University at Buffalo

Location: Buffalo, NY
Enrollment: 29,850

Buffalo Football Facts

Home Stadium: UB Stadium (Capacity: 25,013)
Head Coach: Lance Leipold, 5th season, 24-27
Conference: MAC
Conference Titles: 1
Overall Bowl Record: 0-3

Series History

These two programs have a history that goes all the way back to 1900 when the Bulls defeated the Nittany Lions 10-0. Then the two teams didn’t meet again until 107 years later when the Bulls came to State College in 2007. That game resulted in a 45-24 victory for the Nittany Lions. The last matchup between the two came in 2015, a 27-14 victory for Penn State.

Last Season (10-4 overall, 7-1 MAC)

The 2018 season was arguably the best in Buffalo history as the Bulls won double digit games for the first time in program history. It was the fourth season under head coach Lance Leipold, who has taken the former bottom feeder to one of the country’s better group of five programs.

They started the 2018 season off red hot with a 9-1 record with the lone loss coming to a really good Army team. However, the Bulls would end the season in a slump, losing three of their last four games including a 52-14 loss to the Ohio Bobcats. They also went on to lose the MAC Championship game to Northern Illinois and the Dollar General Bowl to the Troy Trojans.

While Buffalo did achieve its first 10-win season in program history, it left unfinished business, failing to win the conference or the program’s first bowl game.

Recruiting and Offseason:

The Bulls 2019 recruiting class was ranked No. 106 in the country last year and seventh in the MAC with an average player rating of .7989 according to 247Sports. Comparatively, Penn State’s class ranked No. 12 in the nation and second in the Big Ten with an average player rating of .9101.

What they did last week: 38-10 win over Robert Morris

Last weekend, Buffalo took on FCS opponent Robert Morris and came away with an easy 38-10 victory. The Bulls got on the board early and often, scoring 28 points in the first half before letting off the gas in the second. Leipold’s high-powered offense totaled 354-yards in the win while the defense allowed just 240 total yards.

Offense:

The Bulls enter 2019 having lost six starters from the 2018 team including huge blows at quarterback and wide receiver. The most notable departure was quarterback Tyree Jackson. Jackson, who graduated this past year, originally looked to grad transfer out of Buffalo but instead opted for the NFL Draft. He went undrafted and was recently cut by the Bills. Additionally, the Bulls lost five of their top receiving threats from last season.

In week one, Buffalo showed off an offense that was rush-heavy Robert Morris. Buffalo quarterback Matt Myers had just 10 passing attempts in the game and completed just five for 69 yards. He did, however, throw two touchdowns..

In terms of receiving options, junior tight end Zac Lefebvre was the top option against Robert Morris, bringing in two receptions for 43 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman wide receiver and Ambler, Pennsylvania native Marlyn Johnson was the only other Buffalo receiver to catch a pass on Saturday.

The Bulls ran the ball 47 times this past weekend for a total of 285 yards and three touchdowns. The lead backs were Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks. Combined the two had 25 carries for 165 yards and one touchdown. The Bulls will most likely once again split carries between those two backs on Saturday against the Nittany Lions.

The offensive line for Buffalo played well against Robert Morris, allowing no sacks and just two tackles for a loss. The Bulls returned most of their offensive line from last season, during which it allowed just 15 sacks. However, expect the offensive line to have its hands full with a Nittany Lions defensive line that had seven sacks against Idaho this past weekend.

Defense:

The Bulls defense was average a year ago, allowing 25.9 points per game and 355 total yards per game. Only three starters returned this year including leading tackler Khalil Hodges who racked up 143 tackles on the year.

Buffalo’s inexperienced defense against a talented Penn State offense should be an interesting matchup to watch. It’s hard to say just how good either unit is after both programs faced FCS programs in week one.

In week one, the Bulls defense looked strong, allowing under 300 total yards and just 92 passing yards. They did, however, face just nine passing attempts against the Colonials. Robert Morris quarterback George Martin (!!!!) completed 7 of 9 attempts for the game.

On the ground, the Bulls allowed 148 yards on 45 attempts for an average of just 3.3 yards per run. A year ago they allowed over 160 yards per game on the ground. They’ll have a tough challenge against the Nittany Lions stable of running backs on Saturday night.

Freshman safety Cory Gross Jr. and sophomore linebacker James Patterson will be two names to know going into week two. The pair led the Bulls in tackles in week one with seven and five respectively. Patterson also had 1.5 tackles for loss against Robert Morris.

Special Teams:

Buffalo’s starting kicker this season is sophomore Alex McNulty, a first-year starter. In week one, McNulty made his only field goal attempt, a 40-yarder. For his career, he’s 2 of 2 and 7 for 8 on extra point attempts.

Punting for the Bulls in 2019 is sophomore Evan Finegan. Finegan averaged 41.8 yards per punt over 52 punt attempts as freshman. Against Robert Morris he recorded a quality 41-yard punt, but a 12-yard punt hurt his numbers. Finegan will probably get his fair share of chances on Saturday against the Nittany Lions.

The Bulls had to replace top punt return option KJ Osburne in 2019 after Osburne transferred to Miami in the offseason. Taking the punt return duties over in week one was junior running back Theo Johnson who returned two of four possible punts for seven yards.

When it comes to kickoff return duties, junior wide receiver Tito Overton returned one kick for 30 yards against RMU.