By Jonah Bronstein
The official game-time temperature was 94 degrees. With the humidity and a full set of football pads on, Heinz field felt a whole lot hotter.
Branden Oliver felt at home.
The Miami native played every snap of the Buffalo Bulls’ 35-16 loss at Pittsburgh. He ran the ball 35 times, tying Niagara Falls’ native James Starks for the second-highest single-game carry total in school history. His 114-yard performance amounted to almost 40 percent of his production as the Bulls’ part-time starter last season.
“I feel great,” he said after the game. “All I need is some pickle juice.”
“I would joke with him on the field,” quarterback Chazz Anderson said Tuesday. “You’re tired, aren’t you? ‘I’m never tired,’ he said. ‘I’ll never say that.’”
Rehydrated on Sunday, Oliver took part in a community outreach event on UB’s South campus.
“I was a little nervous,” coach Jeff Quinn said. “I said we need you to be recovering. I appreciate you representing us. He said, ‘Coach, I’m fine.’”
And Quinn is fine with giving the 5-foot-8, 200-pound cousin of Buffalo Bills receiver Roscoe Parrish as many carries as he can handle this season.
“I know how much time and effort and work he’s put in to have that opportunity,” Quinn said.
A year ago, Oliver shared the top running back role with Jeffvon Gill. On Saturday, Gill, who has led UB in yards per carry the past two seasons, didn’t get any game action.
Freshman Anthone Taylor is third on the Bulls’ depth chart. Walk-on Brandon Murie (Iroquois) had a strong preseason camp and will be called upon if any of the top three backs get hurt. James Potts, a touted recruit who redshirted last season, is academically ineligible for this season. He will continue to practice and could play in a bowl game if he brings his grades up and the Bulls qualify.
Anderson chuckled at the notion that Oliver would wear down if he continued to assume all of the work.
“The effort that he puts in throughout the week, which is vitally important, prepares him for game day on Saturday,” Anderson said. “If he continues to prepare like he has been, he’ll be fine.”