FACTS & STATS: Site: UB Stadium (29,013) — Buffalo, New York. Television:
ESPN 2 or ESPN U. Home Record: Kent State 1-4, Buffalo 4-2. Away Record:
Kent State 0-5, Buffalo 0-4. Neutral Record: Kent State 0-0, Buffalo 0-0.
Conference Record: Kent State 0-6, Buffalo 2-4. Series Record: Series tied,
GAME NOTES: The Buffalo Bulls put a stop to a four-game losing streak last
week, and will now try for a second win in a row as they host the Kent State
Golden Flashes Wednesday at UB Stadium in a Mid-American Conference battle.
Buffalo routed Akron last week, 55-24, for the team’s first win since head
coach Jeff Quinn was fired earlier in the season. It was the team’s first
victory since late September, and although the Bulls are out of playoff
contention, they can still boost their record and get back to .500 with a pair
of season-ending wins.
Kent State isn’t on that level. The Golden Flashes are 1-9 overall and are the
only winless team in conference play. They have lost three straight games
since their lone win at Army, and were set back yet again last Wednesday by
Bowling Green, 30-20.
In this rivalry, the Golden Flashes and Bulls are all knotted up in the all-
time series at 10 games apiece. Kent State has dropped two of the last three
meetings, including last season’s 41-21 loss in Ohio.
Kent State fell behind early against Bowling Green, so the Golden Flashes were
forced to abandon the run game in order to play catch up. That seems to be the
trademark for Kent State this season, considering the Golden Flashes have lost
all but one game and are ranked 122nd in the nation in rushing offense (78.8
ypg). Nick Holley leads the team with 421 yards on the ground this season,
averaging 42.1 ypg. As a whole, the Golden Flashes have scored four times via
the run all season long.
Colin Reardon has improved since his freshman season in which he was thrust
into the spotlight, but it hasn’t been enough to keep his team in games.
Reardon in 10 games has passed for 2,168 yards, 12 touchdowns and 15
interceptions. His passer efficiency rating is just 110.3, and completion
percentage sits at 56.3 percent.
The Golden Flashes have a pretty dismal scoring offense, currently ranked
122nd with 15.3 ppg. Tight end Casey Pierce has been one of the lone offensive
bright spots, gaining 560 yards and scoring five touchdowns on 54 receptions.
For a one-win team, Kent State hasn’t had many games where the team has given
up an absurd amount of points. In 10 games, the Golden Flashes have
surrendered at least 40 points three times, but the team’s last two losses
have been by 30-20 scores. Slowing an opponent’s running game has been the
biggest culprit for lack of defensive success. Kent State allows 216.6 rushing
ypg, while challengers have scored 16 rushing touchdowns this season.
Nate Holley leads the team with 127 tackles on the season, adding four tackles
for loss and two forced fumbles to his resume. It’s the most impressive one
for any player on the Kent State defense, although linebacker Jordan Italiano
has 92 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. The Golden Flashes need to force
Buffalo into making mistakes, but Kent State has only recorded 15 takeaways
this season, which ranks in a tie for 74th in the nation.
Buffalo’s offense finally came alive in the team’s first win since late
September. The Bulls absolutely dominated Akron last week, led by quarterback
Joe Licata’s four touchdown tosses. This season, Licata ranks in a tie for
11th in the FBS with 25 touchdown passes despite the sub-par year his team is
Licata, who started last season and led his Bulls to a solid campaign in MAC
play, is responsible for an offense that averages 31.4 ppg this season. His
passing game is boosted by the presence of receivers Ron Willoughby (681
yards, eight touchdowns) and Devon Hughes (428 yards, five touchdowns). Seven
players for Buffalo have notched multiple receiving touchdowns this season.
Perhaps the most underrated part of Buffalo’s offense is the run game. After
the departure of Branden Oliver (now with the San Diego Chargers) last season,
Anthone Taylor has stepped in and done a fantastic job running the football.
Despite a few off weeks, he has 1,166 rushing yards (116.6 rushing ypg) and 10
touchdowns in 10 games played.
It’s been the Buffalo defense that has been Kryptonite from time to time this
season. In the Bulls’ four consecutive losses that spanned the entire month of
October and into November, the team surrendered at least 20 points in every
one. Three times in that span an opponent scored at least 36 points. Buffalo’s
unit is allowing an average of 32.6 ppg and 404.5 offensive ypg to
challengers, and has only recorded two interceptions all season long.
That interception number should change against Kent State, considering Reardon
has been known to throw a pick or two in each game this year. And without any
semblance of a rushing attack, the Golden Flashes will have to hit the air.
Linebackers Lee Skinner (86 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, four quarterback
hurries) and Adam Redden (70 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, six sacks) will be
the ones getting after Reardon and the Kent State backfield.
At home this season is where the Bulls have thrived, and in this final home
contest of the 2014 campaign, Buffalo should manage just fine against a Kent
State team desperate for any offense. If the Bulls can score roughly 24 points
in the contest, that should be enough to stay out of Kent State’s reach.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Buffalo 34, Kent State 17