When you think about Buffalo, the city on the western edge of New York state on the shores of Lake Erie, you think chicken wings coated in Frank’s Red Hot sauce and squeezable Parkay margarine, beef on weck sandwiches, and snow, lots and lots of snow. In fact, Buffalo averages 96 inches of snow every year. By contrast, Columbus only gets a measly 28 inches of the white stuff each winter.
But when you think about football in Buffalo, the images that conjure up in your mind are the likes of Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and Bruce Smith who played for the Buffalo Bills, not the Buffalo Bulls, Ohio State’s opponent on Saturday.
Like most colleges and university in the eastern one-third of the United States, the University at Buffalo began playing intercollegiate football in the late 19th century, but the program lasted just 10 years before it was disbanded in 1904.
Football later returned to the Buffalo campus in 1915 and the program remained intact for decades, mostly playing as an independent in the small college division until 1962, when the Bulls moved up to play the big boys. But following a 2-9 season in 1970 with the only wins coming against UMass and Holy Cross, the university suspended the program after the student body voted that they didn’t want to support the team because it was fully funded through student fees.
In 1977, football once again returned to the University at Buffalo on the NCAA Division III level and still an independent, playing opponents similar to the ones the Bulls were accustomed to before 1962. In 1993, the Bulls moved up from Division III to Division I-AA, and in 1999, ascended to the Division I-A ranks and joined the Mid-American Conference.
Since 1999, though, the Bulls have had just one winning season and have gone 39-126 during that span of 14 years. Also during that time, Buffalo is 1-31 against teams from a BCS conference.
In the history of the Buffalo football program, the Bulls were invited to play in two postseason bowl games, playing in one, the 2008 International Bowl losing to Connecticut 38-20. After going 8-1 in 1958 with wins over Cornell, Harvard, Western Reserve, Columbia, Temple, Wayne State, Lehigh and Bucknell with the lone loss coming at the hands of Baldwin-Wallace, Buffalo was invited to the Tangerine Bowl to take on Florida State on the condition that two African-American players on the Bulls’ roster could not play in the game. The university then declined the bowl invite. Good move.
Head Coach Jeff Quinn:
In December of 2009, Jeff Quinn was hired as Buffalo’s 29th coach in school history, replacing Turner Gill who was hired by Kansas after leading the Bulls to a 20-30 mark in four seasons.
Before being hired at Buffalo, Quinn was a long-time assistant coach at various levels of college football and spent 21 years working under current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly with stops at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati. After Kelly bolted for South Bend prior to the 2010 Sugar Bowl, Quinn, who was the Bearcats offensive coordinator at the time, was promoted to interim head coach. On January 1, 2010, Quinn’s Bearcats lost to Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators, 51-24, in New Orleans.
Quinn, now in his fourth season at the helm of the Bulls, is 9-27 overall. Last year, Buffalo posted a mark of 4-8.
Nine starters return on offense from last year that includes the Bulls’ top rusher in 2012, senior RB Branden Oliver, who netted 821 yards on the ground in 148 attempts with five touchdowns after playing just seven games due to various injuries. His backup, sophomore RB Devin Campbell, toted the rock 115 times for 502 yards and two TDs last season.
Also back for another season are four of Buffalo’s top five pass catchers from a year ago with senior WR Alex Neutz, senior WR Free Lee, junior WR Devon Hughes, and senior tight end Jimmy Gordon. Neutz led all receivers with 65 receptions for 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns. Lee was second in receiving yards with 261 on 17 catches and a score. Hughes was second in receptions with 23 that gained 228 yards and a TD.
Fourth on the list on receiving yards, Rudy Johnson, is no longer with the team. Johnson, who wanted to participate in a summer internship in Maryland, was told by Quinn that if he wasn’t in Buffalo for summer conditioning his scholarship would be revoked, and it was, according the blog Bull Run. That’s a shame.
At the quarterback position, sophomore Joe Licata started the final four games last season and will get the nod under center against Ohio State on Saturday. Licata, a pro-style pocket passer, threw for 1,045 yards while completing 52.8 of his attempts with seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
Thee starting offensive linemen return from last year led by senior LG Jasen Carlson.
Defense has seven returning starters back and is led by senior LB Khalil Mack, a first-team All-MAC selection in 2011 and 2012, who holds the school record for tackles for loss (56) and forced fumbles (11). Earlier this summer, Mack was named to the 2013 watch lists for the Nagurski Trophy, and the Bednarik, Lombardi and Butkus awards.
The Buckeyes will need to know where Mack is at all times. Last season, Mack totalled 94 total tackles, eight sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
Second on the team in tackles last year was junior linebacker Lee Skinner with 89 stops, five sacks, and 3,5 tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Colby led the Bulls’ with seven sacks, while senior cornerback Najja Johnson has a team-high five interceptions.