Buffalo will travel to Nebraska fresh off a 69-7 season-opening win over Wagner. It will be the second-straight week a team from the state of New York will play in Memorial Stadium.
To give us some more insight on the Bulls, HuskerOnline caught up with Rachel Lenzi from the Buffalo News to get her thoughts and perspective on Saturday’s game in Lincoln.
Obviously, Buffalo had a really really busy off-season with Lance Leipold going right down the road here from Lincoln to Kansas. He took his whole coaching staff, he took six players. A number of other Buffalo players went into the portal. How has Buffalo come out of all of that and how has the transition been having to make a coaching change after spring football?
“One of the first concerns that Buffalo faced as a program was there was a week between Lance Leipold’s departure and the hire of Maurice Linguist. The first question Buffalo faced with who is going to sustain the success that Lance Leipold built in those six seasons at UB. He took them from being a team that was going down to being a doormat in the Mid-America Conference to being a championship contender. They played in three consecutive bowl games. They played in two MAC championship games in the last three years and there was the question of who’s going to sustain that success?
“They only lost six players to Kansas and another one ended up going to Baylor. Granted, the offensive line has to be rebuilt, but a lot of the major pieces of personnel-wise were kept in place like quarterback Kyle Vantrease, who’s a fifth-year senior linebacker. (Linebacker) James Patterson, who’s in his fourth year. Running back, Kevin Marks, who entered the transfer portal in January and then decided to return to UB. They’ve got the bulk of their secondary back as well. They’ve got the bulk of their defensive line, including defensive end Taylor Riggins, who returned after missing last season for an injury.
“The pieces were there. It was a matter of bringing in someone with a good vision. Someone who was young. Someone who could relate to players. Someone who was high energy, who had seen a lot in college football. If you look at Maurice Linguist’s resume, 15 years as an assistant coach or as a coordinator at the college and NFL levels. He’s a younger guy. He’s 37, 38 years old. He coached with the Dallas Cowboys last year. He’s got that relatability aspect to the players. Not only that, he’s a high motor, high energy guy who believes in building relationships as a foundation for building success in a program.
“I go out to practices now and the guys are very high-energy. There’s very much a positive vibe about it. Also, there can be that when there’s a lot of optimism. You don’t know a lot about your team and how it’s going to compete this year. They beat Wagner 69-7 in their season opener last week, but I don’t know if that’s going to be a true indication of the team playing an FCS program that hasn’t won a game since 2019. I definitely think going out to Nebraska, playing a Big Ten team, that’s going to show us a lot more about Buffalo and where they are on that measuring stick as far as the season goes preparing for the MAC schedule.”
What kind of drastic changes if any did Buffalo make to their scheme with the coaching change?
“I was talking about this with a couple of the players earlier and they said, ‘Yes, we got a new playbook. The concepts are the same, but we had four and a half months to learn it given that Maurice Linguist was hired May 7th.’ I think it was one of the smallest windows of hire with Maurice and the new Ohio coach, who took over for Frank Solich in early July as well. There was a very small window to apply themselves and to learn it.
“Another thing, if you look at the offense, specifically at UB, they lost one of the top running backs in the MAC and probably one of the better running backs in the country was Jaret Patterson, who’s now with the Washington Football Team. They’re going to have to rely on a little bit more of a pass-run balance on offense because they don’t have guys like Jaret Patterson who can consistently run for 175 to 200 yards a game. They’ve got to count on the receivers who are new. Some of them are younger. Some of them are more experienced and they’ve really got to flex that muscle a little bit against a bit of a downtrodden secondary last week against Wagner.
“They needed a game like that just to build their confidence and see where they can go from. We’re going to see definitely a different offence, probably a more balanced offense as well. I don’t think there are a lot of concerns with the defense right now, which returns I would say the bulk of their starters or a lot of guys, the experienced guys, especially on the defensive line.”
What stands out about this match-up with Nebraska?
“Buffalo, they’re putting on a good front. They’re trying not to be intimidated by Nebraska. The Big Ten program, that’s traditionally a perennial power. They’re not trying to look past Nebraska either. Given I watched the 30-22 game against Illinois and I know a lot of people out in Nebraska may not want to talk about that. I noticed that Adrian Martinez has a great arm. He picks his spots, but just a lot of mistakes in that game on special teams. There were a couple of fumble issues where I was like, ‘If you’re going to be successful against Nebraska, you have to exploit the mistakes that they made and Nebraska’s got to play mistake-free football because Buffalo is a team that will pounce on that and exploit that as well, too.
“I’m curious to see how Nebraska is going to handle UB’s depth at running back. Kevin Marks is very experienced. They don’t have a lot of experience behind Kevin Marks as the running back, but they have guys who’ve been in the program two or three years, just don’t have a lot of carries. I want to see how Nebraska’s pass-rush fares against UB and how UB is able to handle that as well.
“They have a receiver from Eastern Michigan named Quian Williams, very familiar with MAC defensives after playing for a couple of years at Eastern Michigan. How’s the team going to fare and how is this offense going to fare against Nebraska? That’s a big question if they were against the Big Ten program. Two years ago, when UB played Penn State, they were down by a touchdown at halftime and it was like, ‘Wow, there’s something going here,’ but then Penn State just took over the game.
“I think that’s the thing. It’s not so much don’t get blown out. It’s like, ‘Let’s see how long we can hang with this team,’ and really build some more confidence off that as well, too. I was also surprised to see, I think I was looking at FanDuel.com, that Nebraska’s only a 13.5 point favorite as well, too. That’s something that might have built a little bit more confidence as well. I think this game is going to be a true measuring stick, much better than Wagner.”
What is your score prediction and breakdown for Saturday’s game in Lincoln?
“I’m going to pick Nebraska. I’ll say Nebraska by two touchdowns. I think it’s a little early to call a score yet, but I’m leaning toward Nebraska right now. I know that the program is in a bit of an identity crisis. They’re trying to find their footing after that loss to Illinois. It’s still the non-conference schedule, but I’m saying now I think Buffalo is going to make it competitive for a good part of that game as well.”