2018 RECORD: 10-4 overall, 7-2 MAC
HEAD COACH: Lance Leipold
2019 MAC Media Poll: 3rd MAC East
Buffalo was the toast of the MAC for much of the 2018 season, setting several school records while opening with four wins and emerging victorious in nine of its first 10 outings.
Things turned a little sour after that, however, as the Bulls fell in three of the next four games. That stretch included losses in the MAC championship and Dollar General Bowl games -- high profile tilts in which Buffalo had the upper hand before stumbling down the stretch.
More setbacks followed for . . .
Jackson’s departure, coupled with other personnel losses, mean head coach Lance Leipold and his squad will be facing some new challenges.
Scoring offense: 34.6 ppg (3rd MAC)
Scoring defense: 25.9 ppg (5th MAC)
Total offense: 414.5 ypg (4th MAC)
Total defense:355.4 ypg (3rd MAC)
Turnover margin: plus 4 (4th MAC)
➤➤ Suffice it to say the first order of business will be filling the quarterback position. Redshirt sophomore Kyle Vantresse has at least some experience and will be the favorite. He started one game as a freshman before redshirting last year, so he is familiar with the system and personnel.
➤➤ Even if Jackson had returned, the Bulls would still be trying to break in some new receivers. Big-time target Antonio Johnson finished his Bulls career in 2018, while K.J. Osborn transferred to Miami (Fla). Both earned All-MAC honors. Tight end Tyler Mabry, meanwhile, has transferred to Maryland.
Junior Antonio Nunn returns after totaling 12 catches for 146 yards and one TD for the season. His best production came in the finale against Troy (4 catches, 87 yards with a long of 51). Charlie Jones grabbed 18 aerials for 395 yards and three scores.
➤➤ The picture is clearer -- and brighter -- with Buffalo’s run game. It starts up front and three-year starter Evin Ksiezarczyk (Second Team All-MAC) heads a group of four returning starters. Even with the departure of four-year starter and 2019 MAC First Team center James O’Hara, UB should still have one of the conference’s best O-lines. That front wall led the league in fewest sacks allowed, which should be of some comfort to whoever is under center.
➤➤ While the passing game was part of what made the Bulls special in 2018, they didn’t forget about UB’s old standby -- running the football. MAC Freshman of the Year Jaret Patterson tallied 14 touchdowns and gained 1,013 yards on the campaign. If healthy, he should get a ton of touches this season. R-Sophomore Kevin Marks was also productive, picking up 845 yards and scoring 13 TDs of his own.
➤➤ JARET PATTERSON ON THE BULLS OFFENSIVE LINE: "I love the big guys. ... That's where it starts. ... I'm really confidence and excited about the season."
➤➤ The Bulls have some rebuilding work to do on defense, as well. The program’s all-time tackles leader, LB Khalil Hodge, is gone, along with Chuck Harris on the edge. Both were All-MAC First Team selections. In all, UB is replacing three linemen, two linebackers and three more along the back line.
➤➤ Taylor Riggins registered 5.0 sacks last year and line options include 6-4, 340-pound Eddie Wilson. A number of players -- on the line and elsewhere -- managed to pick up some valuable experience in last year’s banner season. James Patterson, twin brother of the Bulls running back, returns and could slip into Hodge’s productive middle linebacker slot. Safety Joey Banks returns and should help the Bulls pass defense. Cornerbacks Devon Russell and Aapri Washington also have experience.
➤➤ COACH LEIPOLD ON DEFENSE: "We're going to rotate guys. Maybe we don't have the name guys (this time), but we have some guys that had a chance to play (last year). We feel that we have some young players that are going to continue to grow and give us a great chance to win."
➤➤ Evan Finegan had a solid freshman season, setting a school record with a 41.8 yards per boot punting average. Placekicker Adam Mitcheson is gone, with Alex McNulty likely to take over those duties.
➤➤ Following an Aug. 29 home opener against Robert Morris, Buffalo faces a huge test at Penn State. After visiting Liberty and hosting Temple to close the non-conference schedule, the Bulls face Miami (in Oxford) and Ohio (in Buffalo) to start MAC play.
➤➤ COACH LEIPOLD ON THE BULLS SCHEDULE: "It's going to be very challenging, but i think its going to be an exciting opportunity for us. ... We've got a very challenging opening part of the MAC schedule, as well.
Head coach Lance Leipold’s rebuilding efforts reached a crescendo in 2018. However, losing leads and ultimately losing both the MAC championship and Dollar General Bowl threw in a couple sour notes.
Graduation, the NFL and transfers hit the Bulls hard in the offseason, so reaching another MAC title game will be quite a challenge -- especially with Ohio bringing back much of a team that beat the Bulls 52-17 last year in Athens. At least UB gets the ‘Cats in Buffalo this time around.
Buffalo has been making strides on the defensive side? Can the trend continue? Offensively, the question may be how soon Buffalo can develop the kind of balanced offense that served it so well in 2018.