Buffalo has won 18 games over the last two years, and with 14 starters back for 2020, coach Lance Leipold's team should be the favorite to win the MAC this fall. The Bulls are led by a strong ground game, which features All-America candidate Jaret Patterson at running back and standout tackle Kayode Awosika. The defense led the MAC in fewest points allowed last season and is loaded at all three levels once again for 2020.
Previewing Buffalo's Offense for 2020
Buffalo brings back 99 percent of its production from the most prolific offense in school history.
The Bulls amassed 388.5 yards per game last season, 250 coming from a ground game that featured the nation’s top tandem. All-MAC running back Jaret Patterson led the way, ranking fifth in the country and setting school records with 1,799 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. Kevin Marks complemented him with 1,035 yards and eight touchdowns.
Quarterback Matt Myers started the first five games as a redshirt freshman. He gave the Bulls another running threat before he sustained a season-ending neck injury. Kyle Vantrease provided a steady hand the rest of the way, completing 59 percent of his passes and turning the ball over just three times while the Bulls went 6–2 with the sophomore starting. Myers returned for spring practices following neck surgery. Vantrease, who was also Buffalo’s punter for a couple games, sat out the spring to heal a foot injury.
Buffalo lacked playmakers in the passing game outside of Antonio Nunn, who battled through injury to finish with 49 receptions for 687 yards and six TDs. Tight end Zac Lefebvre formed an early connection with Myers, catching a pair of touchdowns in the opener, but he was limited by injury for much of the season. Blocking tight end Jake Molinich started every game but didn’t catch a pass all season.
Kayode Awosika moves over from right to left tackle on an offensive line that loses three starters after ranking among the nation’s best.
Previewing Buffalo's Defense for 2020
After leading the MAC in total defense, the bulk of the front seven returns, including sack leaders Malcolm Koonce (9.0) and Taylor Riggins (8.5). The 320-pound Eddie Wilson anchors a run defense that ranked fourth in the country.
James Patterson moves to middle linebacker after playing outside his first two seasons. Patterson captained the defense as a sophomore but missed three games with a nerve ailment. Kadofi Wright was a second-team All-MAC pick at outside linebacker and Tim Terry emerged when Patterson was out. Keith Woetzel is a graduate transfer from Lehigh, where he made the FCS All-America third team.
Alongside second-team All-MAC safety Tyrone Hill, junior college transfer E.J. Brown, a former West Virginia recruit, will compete for the starting spot with Cory Gross Jr. Aapri Washington is a reliable returning starter at corner.
Previewing Buffalo's Specialists for 2020
Placekicker Alex McNulty was consistent over the second half of the season. But he struggled early before being replaced by Jackson Baltar, who missed a late field goal and an overtime PAT in a loss to Ohio. Allowing a blocked punt and onside kick recovery contributed to Buffalo squandering a 21-point fourth-quarter lead at Kent State. Punter Evan Finegan rehabilitated a gruesome leg fracture and returned for spring practices.
Buffalo celebrated its first bowl victory by extending the contract of Lance Leipold, who has led the Bulls to a 24–15 record over the past three seasons, the longest run of sustained success since the program returned to Division I in 1999. With so many key players returning, Leipold expects the Bulls to contend for the MAC championship that has eluded them and make a run at the 10-win standard set two seasons ago.
National Ranking: 73
(Top photo by Paul Hokanson/UBBulls.com)