Oxford, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The Buffalo Bulls will have one final dress rehearsal before they battle for a trip to the MAC Championship Game, as they invade Yager Stadium for a bout with the winless Miami-Ohio RedHawks on Tuesday night.
The Bulls had their seven-game win streak snapped last week with a 51-41 loss to Toledo at the Glass Bowl. The setback marked the first in conference play for Buffalo, and tied it with Bowling Green for first place in the East Division standings. Coach Jeff Quinn's team will collide with the Falcons in its regular season finale at UB Stadium on Nov. 29, so it will have a chance to earn its first berth to the MAC title tilt since 2008 regardless of Tuesday's outcome.
The RedHawks are still winless after 10 contests and have been outscored by an average of 23.3 points per game. Interim head coach Mike Bath has been in charge of the program for the last five games after the school parted ways with Don Treadwell, who went 8-21 in 29 career games at Miami. The RedHawks were defeated, 24-6, by Kent State at Dix Stadium last Wednesday, which marked their 14th loss in a row dating back to last season. They are the only squad left in the MAC without a win over a league rival.
Miami is 12-3 versus Buffalo in the all-time series. The Bulls managed to survive their bout with the RedHawks for a 27-24 victory last season at UB Stadium, but they are just 1-6 at Yager Stadium since joining the MAC. A win over Miami would give Buffalo a sixth league victory, which would set a new single-season school record.
Despite being held scoreless through the first two quarters of last week's game versus Toledo, Buffalo finished with 601 total yards to set a new FBS-era record for the team. The Bulls usually rely on star tailback Branden Oliver, but they had to adjust the game plan after falling behind by 31 points at halftime. Sophomore quarterback Joe Licata stepped up his play after intermission as he set career-highs with 497 passing yards and four touchdowns on 36-of-58 efficiency. Since taking over under center at the end of his freshman season in 2012, Licata has gone 10-4 as a starter. He and NIU's Jordan Lynch are the only two signal callers in the MAC with a touchdown pass in every game this season.
Buffalo still got a solid performance out of Oliver in last week's loss, as he racked up 102 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries for his sixth straight 100- yard outing. The senior tailback is the most productive back in the conference and ranks fifth nationally in rushing yards per game (136.1). Oliver is not the only Buffalo player among the FBS leaders. Senior wideout Alex Neutz is tied for fifth in the nation with 11 receiving touchdowns this season, and he owns the school record with 30 for his career. Neutz finished last week's game with eight grabs for 168 yards and a pair of TDs, while Fred Lee had the same number of receptions for 110 yards and a score.
The Bulls have the fifth-best scoring offense (31.9 ppg) and total offense (406.9 ypg) in the conference, although they would be higher had they not opened up the season against Ohio State and Baylor's elite defenses.
The Buffalo defense had allowed a total of 53 points in its previous six games before surrendering 51 to the Rockets, who piled up 350 yards in the opening two quarters before arriving at 551 by the time the final second ticked off the clock. Khalil Mack tied a career-high with 15 tackles, including two for a loss. He is now second in NCAA history with 69.5 career TFL and needs just 6.5 more to tie Jason Babin's record-setting mark. Mack has also forced 13 fumbles in his career, which leaves him one shy of the NCAA record.
The RedHawks are ranked last among the 123 FBS programs in both scoring offense (9.6 ppg) and total offense (222.9 ypg) due to an inefficient running game that nets only 2.6 yards per carry. Miami has scored just three touchdowns on the ground and it has just 961 rushing yards on the season, leaving it as the lone MAC program below the 1,000-yard mark through 10 games.
Miami's offense has produced only nine total points in its last two games, which were the first two the team played since senior quarterback Austin Boucher suffered a season-ending knee injury. In last week's loss to the Golden Flashes, quarterbacks Drew Kummer and Austin Gearing combined to convert just 5-of-14 passes for a mere 64 yards and an interception, with both signal callers being sacked twice. Gearing led the group with 81 rushing yards on 24 attempts.
The RedHawks defense has also been a disappointment, as it permits averages of 470.9 yards and 32.9 points per contest. They allowed the Golden Flashes to rack up 447 total yards last week, which is 100 or so more than they averaged coming into the bout. Two-time First-Team All-MAC corner Dayonne Nunley paced the team versus KSU with 11 tackles.