By Thomas Baldwin
The run game has been good and bad for the University at Buffalo football team so far this season.
The good news for the Bulls (1-2), who host Connecticut on Saturday, is that they can run the football. Led by tailback Branden Oliver, the Bulls are averaging 156.3 yards on the ground through three games.
But the bad news is UB has given up 194.7 rushing yards per game.
“It starts with our run fits,” UB coach Jeff Quinn said. “We need to be more disciplined with our run fits. And when we do get to the point of attack, we certainly need to a better job of tackling. We have guys in position. It is important that we understand that it is going to be improved upon for us to be a great defense.”
Pitt’s Ray Graham ran all over the Bulls for 207 yards in the season opener while Ball State’s Jahwan Edwards ran for 112 yards last Saturday.
“We need to stop people from running the ball, absolutely,” Quinn said. “I know our defensive unit is not pleased with our run defense right now. That’s what I keep telling our kids, that is why there is so much room for improvement, and to get back to the fundamentals.”
Senior defensive lineman Gordon Dubois also said it comes down to basic execution.
“We have always had guys at the point of attack,” he said. “It is just a matter of just making the play when we are there. The first guy has to wrap him up and secure the tackle and the second guy has to get in and strip the ball.”
On Saturday, the Bulls will have to deal with UConn running back Lyle McCombs, who is averaging 4.4 yards per rush and 101.7 yards per game. McCombs ran for 141 and 118 yards in his first two games, but only gained 46 yards on 18 carries in a loss to Iowa St. last Friday night.
“We have watched films on him a couple of times,” Bulls linebacker Fred Branch said. “He is a good player who likes to cut back. We know we need to do our jobs, and be consistent.”
Quinn has been impressed with what he’s seen from McCombs on film.
“You have a guy who can run the ball,” Quinn said of McCombs. “It is going to place a tremendous focus and attention to detail with our defense. They have great personnel, and we have to be smart and have a great week of preparation for our kids to be ready to play on Saturday.”