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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 29, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rentschler Field (40,000) -- Hartford, Connecticut. Television: Big East Network, MASN. Home Record: Buffalo 1-1, Connecticut 1-1 Away Record: Buffalo 0-1, Connecticut 1-1. Neutral Record: Buffalo 0-0, Connecticut 0-0. Conference Record: Buffalo 0-1, Connecticut 0-0. Series Record: Connecticut leads 15-4.
GAME NOTES: For the third time this season the Connecticut Huskies will take on a team out of the Mid-American Conference, as the Buffalo Bulls invade Rentschler Field on Saturday.
Buffalo is coming off a 23-7 loss in its conference opener against Kent State in a game the Bulls lost several key players including All-MAC running back Branden Oliver in the first half. The loss dropped the Bulls to 1-2 with the only win coming against Morgan State of the FCS. Buffalo also began the 2011 campaign at 1-2, while going on to finish 3-9.
In the first four games of the season Connecticut has played two MAC squads and split the two games. The Huskies routed Massachusetts 37-0 in the season opener and last week fell 30-24 on the road to Western Michigan. Connecticut is 18-4 all-time against the conference.
Of Connecticut's 22 previous meetings with MAC competitions 19 have come against the Bulls. In those 19 contests the Huskies have dominated with a 15-4 record that includes wins in nine of the last 10 games. In last season's matchup the Huskies prevailed with a 17-3 win in Buffalo.
An extended injury to Oliver could be detrimental to the Buffalo offense, as the Bulls rely more on the run than the pass. So far this season the Bulls have rushed for 657 yards, with only 526 through the air, the lowest total in the MAC, although the Bulls have played only three games.
Oliver has been the lynchpin of the ground attack with 426 yards on the season for an impressive average of 142.0 yards per game. He is currently fourth in the MAC in rushing yards, but first in yards per game. The rest of the backs have not gotten much work this season with Brandon Murie (12 carries, 50 yards) and James Potts (two carries, 54 yards) being the biggest contributors.
The Bulls second-leading rusher is quarterback Alex Zordich who has rushed for 122 yards this season. Zordich has been very hit-or-miss in the passing game completing just over fifty percent of his passes this season (34-for-67) for 477 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. He has relied heavily on wideout Alex Neutz, who has 15 receptions, 264 yards and a MAC-leading six touchdowns. No other receiver has more than six receptions or 84 yards.
Buffalo has not been a tough team to score on this season, surrendering 34.0 points and 418.3 yards per game. The 23-point effort the unit allowed in its last game was a season low after giving up 45 to nationally ranked Georgia and 34 to Morgan State. Part of the issue is that the Bulls have not been able to create turnovers with just one takeaway this season.
Against Kent State, the Bulls suffered a 404-281 deficit in total yards although they did create pressure in the game with five sacks. Despite that the Bulls could not get off the field with the Golden Flashes having 37:30 in time of possession.
Three different players have at least 20 tackles for Buffalo this season, led by Witney Sherry (24). Khalil Mack also has 20 tackles and a team-leading 3.5 sacks.
Just like Buffalo, Connecticut is a team that relies heavily on the run but in the loss to Western Michigan the Huskies got 333 yards passing from quarterback Chandler Whitmer. The junior college transfer completed 28-of-44 passes and also had three touchdowns and an interception.
Also having an impressive game was wide receiver Geremy Davis, who caught nine passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. The effort accounted for more than half of Davis' overall production (17 receptions, 236 yards) this season
Lyle McCombs had one of his best games of the season, rushing for 119 yards on 23 carries, while also picking up a pair of receptions for 28 yards out of the backfield. McCombs is now third in the Big East in rushing (355 yards) after finishing second in the category in 2011.
Overall as an offense Connecticut has been one of the least productive units in the Big East. The team is averaging a conference-low 23.0 points per game, while the squad's 314.8 yards and 15.3 first downs per game are better than only Temple.
Despite a weak offense, Connecticut has stayed competitive this season because of its stellar defense. The Huskies lead the league in total defense (213 ypg) while surrendering only 15.3 points per game. The Huskies excel at getting into the backfield and disrupting plays with a total of 34 tackles for loss and 15 sacks.
The trio of Yawin Smallwood, Sio Moore and Trevardo Williams have been the most impressive players. Smallwood leads the team with 42 tackles, with 9.5 tackles for loss, including four sacks. Williams has a team-high 5.5 sacks on the season, while Moore has 24 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
A return to Rentschler Field will be a big help for the Huskies, who are 11-4 at home over the last three seasons. The Husky defense is built to get after the quarterback and get into the backfield, which should play into their favor, especially if Oliver cannot play for the Bulls.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Connecticut 30, Buffalo 10
09/26 10:36:03 ET