UB hosts Akron on homecoming weekend

October 12, 2018 - 2:53 pm
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UB football is back home this weekend following their 34-24 win over Central Michigan last Saturday in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. The Bulls play host to division rival Akron (2-2, 0-1) with a chance to be 3-0 in the MAC for the first time since 2013.

While the Zips lead the all-time series 11-6, Buffalo has had their number at home. The Bulls have won their last five meetings with Akron at UB Stadium.

It’s also homecoming weekend at UB, which should draw more fans to the game. Two weeks ago the fifth largest crowd in UB Stadium history attended the Bulls game against Army, which of course resulted in a loss. However, after a strong week of practice and a bounce back win over CMU, the Bulls have put the Army loss behind them and appear to be back on track.

“Any time we get to play at home in front of our crowd it’s a great feeling,” Bulls quarterback Tyree Jackson said on Wednesday. “We have to continue to give them something to root for and continue to go out there and play hard. But it’s definitely awesome playing in front of the Buffalo community and how serious they are about their sports teams, it’s awesome seeing some of that love come to UB.”

Jackson and the players aren’t the only ones who like getting some love from Buffalo fans. Bulls head coach Lance Leipold also likes seeing more fans at UB Stadium.

“I hope we can get another great crowd,” Leipold said on Tuesday. “I know fans were disappointed the Army game didn’t go the way we wanted. But to me it’s great to see how our guys have bounced back. I hope the fans keep supporting this group of guys. I think they’ll enjoy watching them play and it’ll be a different style game than the last one. I hope that alums whether they’re local or coming back from far away can bring that home crowd advantage and atmosphere to UB stadium.”

A home field advantage could certainly help the Bulls against a tough opponent. While they sit at 2-2 and 0-1 in the MAC, Akron is not a team to take lightly. The Zips won the MAC East division in 2017 and have appeared in a bowl game in two of the last three seasons.

“They’re very talented on defense,” Tyree Jackson said. “They have a lot of athletes on offense as well. It’ll be a fun game, we’re excited to go out and play them Saturday.”

On paper, Akron’s offense isn’t the most intimidating. Out of 130 FBS teams the Zips are 127th in rushing yards and 119th in passing yards. But, this team knows how to execute; the Zips have yet to be stopped inside the red zone this season.

For the second straight week the Bulls will face a quarterback that can use his legs to pick up yards. Last week CMU’s Tommy Lazzaro ran for 108 yards; and Akron’s sophomore play-caller Kato Nelson could do the same.

“If things aren’t there [in the passing game] the quarterback is going to probably keep the ball and get a few,” Leipold said. “Kato Nelson is one of those guys.”

While Akron will be another test for the Bulls defense, on the offensive side UB should have a definite advantage. The Zips are currently ranked 119th in the FBS in passing defense and are dead last in total defense. This seems like a group the Buffalo offense should thrive against.

The UB offense seemed to regain a lot of confidence last week vs. CMU; but while the numbers are in their favor they can’t have an off game against Akron.

“We have to be able to be consistent like we were last week,” Leipold explained. “Akron has a little bit different style of defense based on body types and aggressiveness. You look at their defense and it’s a lot of juniors and seniors and they’ve been through a lot. They won our division last year and played in the MAC championship and played in a bowl game. When you get two more games with three to four more weeks of practice, that’s player development time. Where they’re at as a program is a credit to coach [Terry] Bowden and his staff, it’ll be a good test for us.”

Going into the weekend there are a few players dealing with injuries on the UB offense.

Wide receiver Anthony Johnson remains week-to-week with a leg injury. The senior was only on the field for a handful of snaps against Army and didn’t play at all against CMU.

“I know this, the young man is really trying,” Leipold said on Johnson. “I know he wants to play and play badly but at the same time we all need to make sure we get him back on the field at the right time.”

Having Johnson back in the lineup would provide quite a spark for the Bulls. However, with this team one win from bowl eligibility, they may have all the motivation they need this week.

After being snubbed from a bowl game last year despite having six wins, the Bulls have known since last December that the goal was to not leave things up to chance in 2018. Now they’re sitting at 5-1 and not only have the chance to clinch that bowl game bid but also accomplish a lot more with half a season left to play.

“We’re locked in on going out each week and going 1-0,” Jackson said. “We have a lot of goals this year and one of them is bowl eligibility but there’s many more after that. So we have to continue to stay humble, get better and go out there and go 1-0 each week.”

Kickoff on Saturday against Akron is scheduled for 12:00 P.M. from UB Stadium. You can hear the full game along with pregame and postgame coverage on ESPN 1520. 

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