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Connecticut (0-3) at Buffalo (1-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 28, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: UB Stadium (29,013) -- Buffalo, New York. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: UConn 0-3, UB 1-0. Away Record: UConn 0-0, UB 0-2. Neutral Record: UConn 0-0, UB 0-0. Conference Record: UConn 0-0, UB 0-0. Series Record: Connecticut leads, 16-4.
GAME NOTES: Connecticut came up just short of a monumental upset last week. Now the Huskies will make their fourth attempt at picking up their first win of the season, as they take on the Buffalo Bulls in a non-conference matchup at UB Stadium.
The Huskies held a 21-7 lead over No. 15 Michigan just past the midway point of the third quarter at Rentschler Field last Saturday, but they could not hold off the Wolverines, who scored 17 consecutive points to narrowly escape with a victory. UConn fell to 0-3 having already lost to FCS foe Towson (33-18) and Maryland (32-21), both of which are still undefeated. Coach Paul Pasqualoni is now in his third season at the helm of the program and has gone 10-17 during his tenure.
Buffalo suffered a pair of lopsided road setbacks to a pair of Top 25 teams at Ohio State (40-20) and Baylor (70-13) to begin its 2013 slate. Although they needed five overtimes to get it done, the Bulls finally notched their first win as they outlasted Stony Brook for a 26-23 victory at home in what was the longest game in school history. Coach Jeff Quinn's team had last week off. They will begin their Mid-American Conference season next week versus Eastern Michigan.
Although UConn holds a 16-4 all-time series lead, it is 8-0 against Buffalo since the Bulls became a full-fledged member of the FBS in 2002. The Huskies won last year's meeting, 24-17, at home.
UConn has been atrocious on the offensive side of the ball this season and produces an average of only 290 yards per game. The Huskies only tallied 206 offensive yards against Michigan and junior quarterback Chandler Whitmer threw a costly interception that put the Wolverines in great position to tie the score in the fourth frame. Whitmer threw for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-32 efficiency in the contest. He has amassed five touchdowns to four interceptions on the campaign, while completing 58.1 percent of his passes. Leading receiver Shakim Phillips did not play against Michigan, but could return to action this week. His presence was huge when he was healthy, as he has reeled in 15 passes for 255 yards and three TDs in two games.
Connecticut gained just 1.9 yards per rush on 25 attempts versus the Wolverines. It is netting only 52 yards per game on the ground, despite junior running back Lyle McCombs, who was named to the preseason candidate list for the 2013 Doak Walker Award. McCombs has just 167 yards with an average of 3.8 ypc in 2013.
The Huskies recorded four takeaways in total and registered three sacks last week to keep it close. Michigan managed to come back as it succeeded on 7- of-17 third down plays, compared to UConn's much lower 1-of-11 conversion rate. Yawin Smallwood, who ranks second in the nation with 14.3 tackles per game, tallied 13 stops, two TFL, one sack and a forced fumble in last week's loss.
Smallwood will face a much different type of quarterback this week as Buffalo's pocket passing Joe Licata looks to lead his team back to the .500 mark. The sophomore passer earned the starting job late in his rookie year and led the team to three wins in four outings. Licata has hit on 56-of-95 pass attempts this year, for 592 yards and four TDs. Senior Alex Neutz is one of the top wideouts in the MAC once again. He has already reeled in 25 catches through three games, including a career-best 197 yards receiving on only six grabs at Baylor.
Buffalo's backup running back Anthone Taylor rushed for a career-high 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the game-winner in the fifth extra session, to propel the Bulls past the Seawolves in their last appearance. Taylor was starting in place of the talented Branden Oliver, who is questionable for this Saturday due to a knee injury.
The Bulls have the worst scoring defense in the MAC with an allowed average of 44.3 ppg, but they have also played two of the top offenses in the nation. Senior linebacker Adam Redden had the best game of his career against Stony Brook, piling up a career-best 17 tackles. Senior linebacker Khalil Mack is in pursuit a pair of career NCAA records, forced fumbles and tackles for loss. He now has 11 forced fumbles, three shy of the record, and he is 14.5 tackles for loss behind the NCAA record holder in the category.
The Huskies are in danger of finishing non-conference play without a win, which is quite unusual considering they have gone 45-25 in regular season games against non-league foes since joining the FBS in 2002. UConn definitely built some confidence last week and has a great chance to win this one if it limits turnovers. However, Buffalo's rushing attack has some depth that it could use to wear the Huskies down.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Buffalo 27, Connecticut 24
09/25 10:33:01 ET