Each week, Voice of Bulls Football Paul Peck will preview the upcoming game.
Buffalo (1-5, 0-2 MAC) vs. Northern Illinois (1-6, 1-2 MAC)
Shocking. That's the first reaction you have when you see that the Northern Illinois Huskies come into this game with one win and six losses. For most of UB's 17 years in the Mid-American Conference, the Huskies have been the league's best team. They've won the last six MAC West Titles, and most recently the 2014 MAC Championship. But a variety of factors-schedule, injuries, bad luck-have made this an unusual season in DeKalb, Illinois.
The Huskies have lost two three-overtime games. They've lost one game by 5 points, and another by 7 points. The combined record of their opponents is 36-10. In non-conference action, they faced San Diego State when the Aztecs were ranked, and a 6-1 South Florida team. They lost to an FCS team, Western Illinois, which is ranked 13th. Two of their first three MAC games came against the league's best: Western Michigan & Central Michigan. They are starting their third quarterback this season. Three senior starters on defense are out of the season.
Head Coach Rod Carey believes his team is close, and cites a few plays from each game that could have his Huskies squad at 5-2 or 4-3. That said, this may be the Bulls best chance to keep a struggling NIU team down, and get their first ever win in Huskie Stadium.
Bull Session Trivia: There's not much interesting UB trivia in the series with Northern Illinois, so this question is a little off the board. The Bulls will fly to Rockford, IL before heading to DeKalb and NIU's campus, about 50 minutes away. What sports team was the focus of a movie featuring Rockford? Can you name the movie?
Bullseye on: Buffalo Offense
The progression and evolution of Tyree Jackson took a big step forward against Ball State. Tyree set new career highs in completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns. His 306 yard passing makes him the first UB freshman to throw for 300 yards in an FBS game. His total offense number of 370 is exactly the target area for every week. Performances like that will lead to a lot of wins. Consider also that Tyree's receivers had some key drops that would have added another 100 yards to his total….In the last two games, Jackson has thrown for 556 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Lance Leipold said "the passing offense took a step forward" and Tyree is "just more comfortable"….He's only been sacked three times all year. Last week's was a cheap one, counted when there was confusion in the backfield that caused Jackson to go down…He is currently the 10th ranked passer in the MAC, and the highest rated freshman…Ten of the Bulls 11 TD's have a direct link to Jackson's throwing or running…Jordan Johnson got going with 76 yards rushing. He moves into 10th all time in UB rushing, with a chance to move up to 7th this week…Mason Schreck celebrated his John Mackey Award Midseason Watch list with a career high 9 catches. He continues to be Jackson's top receiver and a major threat across the middle…Malcolm Robinson also hit career highs with 5 catches for 80 yards. Interesting tidbit about Malcolm, revealed during my pregame radio interview with him. He went to Canton, OH's McKinley High School. It's the school across the street from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They play their games in Fawcett Stadium, site of the annual Hall of Fame game. Robinson and his teammates have met numerous Hall of Famers. They set up the chairs and work concessions for the enshrinement ceremony…It was good to see Jacob Martinez back from his preseason injury. He should be able to provide another weapon from the slot…K.J. Osborn made a nice catch and run for his first career touchdown. He may start seeing more time as the Bulls sort through their receiver position…All of the Bulls wideouts won't have to deal with one of the nation's top cornerbacks. NIU's Shawun Lurry is out with a concussion. He led the nation with nine interceptions last year, including one against UB…He's the fourth starter out of the Huskie's defensive lineup. Due to that, their two-deep lineup on defense features nine freshman or sophomores…One of them is true freshman cornerback Daniel Isom, who's started two of the last three games and is expected to start against the Bulls…The Huskies top defender is linebacker Sean Folliard, their second leading tackler…Injuries on the defensive line forced Lincoln Howard to move from offensive line last week. He's be a backup at defensive tackle…NIU's defense is ranked 11th in the MAC. They are allowing 4.7 yards per rush, also 11th in the conference.
Bullseye on: Buffalo Defense
Coach Leipold talked a lot this week about the run defense, which now ranks last in the country allowing 285 yards per game. The Head Coach cited "gap integrity" as the biggest root of the problems. He also said missed tackles and getting off blocks are contributing to the struggles. The Bulls defenders have faced over 45 run plays in five of their six games. Some of that is playing run-first teams like Army, Nevada and Kent State. Some of it, like last week against Ball State, is teams saying show us you can stop the run before we start to pass. Ball State's second half mix was 33 runs and 5 passes…On average through six games, the Bulls are facing less than 20 passes per game. That's part of the reason they lead the NCAA in pass defense. Another part of it? They're good at stopping the pass, as shown by the first half performance featuring a sack, two interceptions and 47% completion…Khalil Hodge's 15 tackles gives him 64 in the last five games. He is 2nd in the MAC and 3rd in the NCAA in total tackles…Northern Illinois will test the Bulls run defense in a variety of ways. In the backfield, they have 2015 1st team All-MAC running back Joel Bouagnon. He averages 5.3 yards per carry. Last year, Bouagnon ran for a career-high 156 yards against UB…Quarterback Anthony Maddie is the MAC's 7th leading rusher, averaging 7.4 yards per carry. In 3 starts, he's run for 100+ yards twice….The Huskies 4th and 5th leading rushers are their two starting wide receivers. Kenny Golladay has run the ball 15 times for a 10 yard average. Aregeros Turner has 13 runs for an 8 yard average. All of those are on jet sweep runs. The Huskies wideouts have run the jet sweep 38 times for 303 yards, an 8 yards average. The Bulls struggled with the deception of the jet sweep against Kent State, although none of the actual runs hurt them…Maddie is the third NIU starting quarterback this season, the second straight year they have started three different QB's. He replaced Ryan Graham, who made his first career start against UB last year…Golladay is the MAC's leading receiver with 49 catches. His 725 yards rank second. He's a six-foot-four inch target, who torched UB last year for 141 yards and two scores….Tight End Shane Wimann has five touchdown catches on 14 receptions…The NIU offense ranks third in the MAC, but they have been outscored in the first quarter 69-17.
Bullseye on: Lance Leipold's Homecoming
This is a special weekend for Leipold. This is as close as he'll be to his Wisconsin roots. The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the site of his six national championships, is just an hour-and-a-half away. Between family members, friends and a busload of folks from his church, Lance will have nearly 100 Bulls fans in the stands. That's not the only familiar faces he'll see. Huskies QB Coach Craig Harmon coached on the Whitewater staff in 2013. Northern Illinois Head Coach Rod Carey coached in the same Wisconsin Division III league, although not at the same time. I wonder if Brats and Cheese Curds will be the pregame meal.
Bull Session Trivia Answer: The Rockford Peaches were a real team in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. They were featured in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis.
Please join me, color analyst Jim Kubiak, sideline reporter Scott Wilson, game host Brad Riter and postgame host Bob Gaughan for the broadcast on the Bulls Football Network. Our pregame show starts at 2:30pm. You can hear it in Buffalo on ESPN 1520 (www.espn1520.com). A link to the online broadcast is also available at http://www.ubbulls.com/espn1520.