Previewing The Enemy: Buffalo Bulls
No. 15 Penn State football (1-0) will return to Beaver Stadium under the lights this weekend for a contest against the Buffalo Bulls (1-0).
The Nittany Lions are coming off a comfortable 79-7 victory over Idaho in their season opener. Penn State held a 44-point lead entering halftime, and the final result of the game was never really in any doubt. Buffalo, however, should prove a tougher test this week.
Buffalo has played against Penn State three times before, and the Nittany Lions lead the all-time series 2-1, including a 27-14 victory over the Bulls in the 2015 season.
Buffalo began the 2018 season by winning nine of 10 games. However, the team lost three of its final four contests — including the MAC championship game against Northern Illinois and the Dollar General Bowl against Troy — to end a spectacular season on a sour note.
Head coach Lance Leipold kicked off his fifth season in charge of the Bulls’ football program by beating Robert Morris by a final score of 38-10 in week 1. He’s amassed a record of 24-27 as Buffalo’s head coach, and last season marked his first bowl appearance with the team.
Leipold was tasked with replacing starting quarterback Tyree Jackson, who scored a total of 35 touchdowns and passed for 3,131 yards last season. He also lost star linebacker Khalil Hodge, who led the team and finished fifth in the nation with 143 tackles to his name.
Buffalo’s offense was led by redshirt freshman Matt Myers during the team’s home opener against Robert Morris. Myers was 5-for-10 with 69 yards and two touchdowns against the Colonials, and he also chipped in with 47 rushing yards on four carries.
The Bulls utilized a bit of a two-headed monster at running back during their home opener. Reigning MAC freshman of the year Jaret Patterson led the team with 90 rushing yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, but returning veteran Kevin Marks also chipped in 13 carries for 75 yards on the ground. This duo combined for 1,823 yards and 27 touchdowns last season.
Buffalo’s offense definitely tends to rely on the running game, so it’s no surprise that the team’s receivers don’t exactly jump off the stat sheet. It lost both of its top two receivers — Anthony Johnson and KJ Osborn — after the 2018 season and with them 1,903 yards of production. Junior Carlton Todd and true freshman Marlyn Johnson top the team’s depth chart at receiver, and they’re backed up by juniors Tito Overton and Dominic Johnson.
Todd is a junior college transfer from Iowa Central, and Overton was a special teamer prior to this season. Marlyn Johnson made a 27-yard catch against Robert Morris in his collegiate debut, and Johnson made the switch from quarterback to wide receiver this year.
Expect the Bulls to run the ball often against Penn State on Saturday night. After helping the team produce 285 yards on the ground in week 1, Buffalo’s offensive line will truly have its hands full against Sean Spencer’s Wild Dogs — one of the top defensive fronts in the nation.
Defense & Special Teams
Khalil Hodges’ departure from Buffalo leaves a huge hole in the team’s defense, but the team has three linebackers capable of replacing his 143-tackle output by committee this year.
James Patterson produced 77 stops and a team-leading nine tackles-for-loss last season, and Matt Otwinowski made 31 stops in a backup role last year. Kadofi Wright rounds out Buffalo’s starting trio at the position — a role he assumes after making 45 stops last season. It’s pretty unfair to ask any of these guys — let alone just one — to replace Hodges’ production
Up front, Taylor Riggins and Malcolm Koonce are a solid duo at defensive end after making a combined seven stops (two for a loss, one sack) against Robert Morris. Defensive tackles Eddie Wilson and Chibueze Onwuka, however, bring back just nine games of starting experience after the departure of Justin Brandon, who registered three sacks and five TFLs last year.
Buffalo’s secondary features second-year starting safety Joey Banks, who defended six passes and forced a fumble last year. He’s joined by Tyrone Hill at the other starting safety spot after Jordan Collier ran out of eligibility last year. At cornerback, Devon Russell is a junior college transfer from Ellsworth Community College in Iowa who’s slotted into the starting lineup, and Aapri Washington is a sophomore who posted two interceptions in 2018.
Sophomore punter Evan Finegan is coming off a 2018 season in which he set the school record with 41.8 yards per punt. The team also returns sophomore placekicker Alex McNulty, who went 4-for-4 on extra points and nailed a 40-yard field goal against Robert Morris in week 1.
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About the Author
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