Buffalo fired head coach Jeff Quinn at the midway point coming off a BYE week last season after failing to meet expectations. The move was a shocking one, causing a lot of division for Bulls fans. The next week, they opened up with a game against the Central Michigan Chippewas, and ended up with a loss at home.
In the stead of Quinn, Buffalo hired Lance Leipold, head coach of D-III power Wisconsin-Whitewater, fresh off a national championship, the latest of five. In his D-III career, Leipold went an amazing 109-6, with three of those losses coming in one season in 2013. There are a lot of expectations surrounding the coach, who is affectionately known as LL Cool Coach.
This year, the Bulls once again had a midseason BYE week and their opponent coming off the break? Central Michigan. One could certainly use this game as a measuring stick to track the Bulls’ progress. In a word, the game was brutal. 14,301 fans at Kelly/Shorts Stadium saw a 51-14 throttling of the Buffalo Bulls in every aspect of the game.
The Bulls finished with 241 yards of total offense, with 92 on the ground and 149 through the air. Quarterback Joe Licata was wildly efficient in the first quarter, going 6-9 for 73 yards and one touchdown, but it did not get much better from there. Overall, Licata finished 14-28 for 149 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Licata found himself nursing a hand injury that he sustained in the third quarter, and was pulled out in the fourth quarter as a precaution. The Bulls finished with 92 rushing yards between four runners; Anthone Taylor, the leading rusher, was held out of action following a leg injury, and it is unknown when he will return.
Defensively, the Bulls were outsmarted by quarterback-masquerading-as-a-matador Cooper Rush, who went 23-30 for 313 yards and 5 total touchdowns, looking nearly unstoppable at points, although Buffalo did manage a pretty pick-6 in garbage time in the fourth quarter by Andrew Dadeboe. Buffalo also gave up 161 rushing yards to the Chips, who came in at 124th in the country with a paltry 93.5 yards per game on the ground before kickoff. The Bulls could not employ a “bend, don’t break” tactic either, allowing two rushing touchdowns in the redzone early, and an additional one in the fourth quarter. Overall, the Bulls gave up 463 total yards and 51 points, giving up 31 more points than their average of 20.8 this season.
The second quarter was especially brutal for the Bulls, as they gained only 33 yards of offense, whilst giving up 23 unanswered points to Central Michigan. The Bulls also went 0-for-4 on third down conversions in the quarter, while CMU went 3-for-4, a surefire momentum killer for the Bulls. Combine that with untimely interceptions and dropped opportunities, and the Bulls walk out of Mt. Pleasant looking for answers.
Coach Leipold looked disgusted after the game and came out of the locker room visibly fuming, his arms crossed and face down. When asked about how the game went, Leipold was succient and to the point: “[Central Michigan] smacked us around a little bit, and we didn’t respond.”
Leipold also addressed a lack of effort from his side, citing multiple penalties and missed opportunities on both sides of the ball, saying that “the wheels fell off, and we’re not fighting back.” Leipold also stated he could potentially practice celebration and late hit penalties, saying that “it has to be understood how important it is not to commit those penalties.” The Bulls were plagued by bad penalties, including an excessive celebration, and a late hit penalty on a first-down play, and finished the day with 5 penalties for 63 yards on the day.
Quarterback Joe Licata also had words about execution, saying that “the effort was unacceptable all the way around” from the Bulls, and that the team was challenged by Coach Leipold after the game. What was said is quite unknown, but if Leipold’s scathing review post-game is any indication, Buffalo could be in for some major changes next week.
Leipold has been adjusting to the speed of the FBS level since coming up from D-III, and the growing pains were bound to happen at some point, especially after playing both Nevada and Bowling Green close in the prior two weeks before the BYE week. That being said, being mired in the basement of the MAC East with three straight losses for the first time in his stellar coaching career has to be frustrating to Coach Leipold, who is accustomed to perfection. Leipold suggested as much, saying that the responsibility for Buffalo’s faults lie on him, saying that “it’s my responsibility to get that changed and do a better job of getting them ready.” That work will certainly get started upon the Bulls’ return home on Monday.
Buffalo now has quite the hill to climb in the league table thanks to this big loss, as they now have to jump Massachusetts, Ohio, BGSU, and Akron in order to have any chance at the MAC East crown. Their schedule looks favorable as the MAC East isn’t exactly a juggernaut division, but for any chance to win the title, they will almost certainly have to beat Ohio and Kent State, two surprise teams that have given BGSU a run for their money.
The Central Michigan Chippewas (3-4, 2-1 MAC) next travel to Ball State on October 24th, while the Buffalo Bulls (2-4, 0-2 MAC) play at home against MAC East contender Ohio.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer