|Rumble in the Ralph to decide MAC East title|
|Written by By JACK CARLE Sentinel Sports Editor|
|Wednesday, 27 November 2013 12:52|
Two programs which have turned things around in a big way are battling in the final game of the regular season for a berth in the Mid-American Conference championship game.
Bowling Green and Buffalo, both 8-3 overall and 6-1 in the MAC, play Friday in Ralph Wilson Stadium, the home of the Buffalo Bills. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPNU.
The winner of the game faces Northern Illinois on Dec. 6 at Detroit’s Ford Field for the MAC title.
In Dave Clawson’s first three years at BG, the Falcons were a combined 14-23. Bowling Green has since produced eight wins in each of the last two seasons, with the opportunity for more this year.
In Jeff Quinn’s first three years at Buffalo, the Bulls went 7-27. Now in his fourth season, Quinn has Buffalo two wins away from a MAC title.
‘‘The buzz and excitement on this campus is certainly special,’’ said Quinn. ‘‘It’s been four years in the making, and it’s always been our vision to build a championship culture of academic and athletic excellence.
‘‘They have worked their tail ends off,’’ Quinn added about his team. ‘‘The chance to compete for the MAC East title is certainly something we have always had as a goal and expectation in our program.’’
Clawson and Quinn have built their teams from the bottom up, and it has been strong play and leadership from the seniors that have made both teams successful.
‘‘These guys, I have leaned very heavily on ... All of these guys have just bought in,’’ Quinn said about his seniors.
Buffalo is paced by senior linebacker Khalil Mack, who is the school’s leader in sacks and tackles for loss.
The 6-foot-3, 248 pound Mack, who is an NFL prospect, opened the eyes of many in the Bulls’ season-opening 40-20 loss to Ohio State, He had nine tackles, 2.5 for losses, and returned an interception 45 yards for a TD against the Buckeyes.
Mack has forced an NCAA-record 16 fumbles in his career. He is also just 2.5 tackles for loss away from the NCAA record.
‘‘We have done a nice job of placing him in position to put the pressure on the quarterback,’’ Quinn said. ‘‘It’s an objective and goal of ours everyday.
‘‘You put Khalil Mack in a one-on-one matchup, and he’s going to win more of those battles then not,’’ Quinn added.
With opponents scheming to stop Mack by double-teaming him, it opens up opportunities for other Bulls’ defenders.
‘‘It’s a team effort,’’ Quinn said. ‘‘We certainly have a bunch of kids over there on that side of the ball that take pride in getting on the other side of the line of scrimmage and sacking the quarterback, and creating those tackles for loss.’’
Bowling Green’s offense has scored 152 points in the last three games, but the Bulls defense will provide a major test.
Buffalo has forced 25 turnovers this season and has three players each with three interceptions. UB’s defense has also generated 72 tackles for loss, including 25 sacks.
Offensively, UB senior running back Branden Oliver, 5-8, 208, has rushed for 3,889 yards in his career. This season he is fifth in the nation, averaging 137.5 yards per game on the ground, and he has scored 14 touchdowns.
Quinn said an emphasis for the Bulls has been developing the offensive line in order to run the ball. As a team, Buffalo is averaging 186.2 yards a game on the ground this season.
Sophomore quarterback Joe Licata, 6-2, 226, has played well this season. He has completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 2,047 yards with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions.
‘‘Joe Licata is just a perfect pocket thrower, a drop-back guy, play-action and hand the ball off,’’ Quinn said. ‘‘He has done a good job being smart with the ball.
‘‘He has clearly been a reason why our offense has been so productive,’’ Quinn added.
Alex Neutz, a 6-3, 205 senior, and Fred Lee, a 6-2, 205, senior, have combined for 101 receptions for 1,475 yards and 15 TDs, including 11 touchdowns by Neutz.
On special teams, Patrick Clarke is 12-of-19 on field goals and 41-of-44 on PATs. For his career, Clarke is 12-of-18 on field goals of 40 yards or longer.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 12:53|
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