Time to reach across the aisle to our opponent this week and see what they think to be the critical components of the contest Friday night as Buffalo hosts the Ball State Cardinals. We spoke to Tim at the Buffalo blog UBBullRun, who has made a nice little name for themselves on the SBNation platform as well as one of the better blogs in the MAC0sphere. Enjoy…
OTP: Most BSU fans are still smarting over the MAC Championship Game from 2008. Yes, it was two years ago, but it still stings as much now as it did the day after. Admit once and for all that you guys fluked your way into a MAC Championship and that will help. More to the point, do you think UB fans get as emotionally charged for BSU as we do for UB?
BR: Firstly we did not fluke that win! Buffalo was a ball stealing machine that season we did that week in and week out. Also our record (7-5) was not reflective of how good we were. UB was a goal post away from beating CMU and lost to WMU only after a collapse in the 4th. UB was, at least, on par with CMU and WMU that season. BSU probably wins that game seven out of ten times but the fact UB came out and played their game is not a fluke. I am feeling a whole lot less charged up for BSU than I was at the beginning of the season. Maybe it’s the beat downs we have suffered but at this point I look at BSU, EMU, and Akron all the same way. Teams I really, really don’t want to lose to.
OTP: Say I have a giant red Stan phone that rings direct to Coach P’s cell phone, assuming he even has one or knows what those new fangled things are. Since he directs the offense, what are the cracks in the Bulls’ defensive unit? What are the weak links in the defensive chain for the Bulls?
BR: Oddly enough it’s been the secondary. The one area that was supposed to anchor the unit while the front seven adjusted to the 3-4. Our Cornerbacks have really had a hard time keeping the play in front of them. The more aggressive posture taken by the Bulls have opened up some ugly holes when the play action is executed well. The main way to beat our defense is to keep them on the field; we don’t have the depth needed on the line to maintain pressure thought a long game.
OTP: Say the Stan phone doesn’t ring to him, but does hit up the defense and coordinator Jay Hood. What do the defenses that the Bulls have struggled against this season have in common? Any particular thing that’s an offensive problem for Buffalo that the defense can exploit?
BR: UB’s offensive line was suspect coming into this season; injuries have only made things worse. We can’t run block or protect the QB very well so I can’t think of a single thing a defense, outside of Bowling Green, tried that did not work on us. Basically we have a young QB with just three games behind him. Don’t give him time and you’ll be ok even if your coverage is not that great.
OTP: Give the BSU fans two players on offense and two on defense that we need to keep our eyes on.
BR: Ball State should watch for Alex Zordich who is quickly becoming our biggest running threat on the team. Time and time again he runs right through a defense carrying anyone smaller than a big linebacker. Rivers has huge big play potential but he has been a victim of a dysfunctional offense. On defense there are three guys Means, Mack, and Cook. Means has been a beast on the line, as a pure pass rusher we have not had anyone this good since Trevor Scott. Means is complimented on the other side by Khalil Mack who has been a force in the backfilled in almost every game this season. Finally Domonic Cook is the only think keeping UB anywhere near a non negative turnover ratio.
OTP: Buffalo is clearly struggling this season; much like BSU struggled last year. Is it solely because of Coach Gill leaving? Is there a lack of talent on the roster? What gives for a team that many thought were on the rise and a frontrunner for a BCS conference snapping them up?
BR: One of the big reasons you guys suffered so much last season (you’re not doing that hot this year either) is because Parrish insisted on mucking about with your defensive set. I think you guys cut over from a 3-4 to a 4-3 last season. UB is going through a similar thing this year. In addition to losing our QB, two receivers, and quite possibly the best pass catching tight end of the modern era we have ‘system issues’. Turner Gill built up a pro-set offense and Jeff Quinn took that nice shiny peg and used a hammer to jam it into a round hole.
OTP: As we’re a bit of music buffs here at OTP, give us a theme song for this season for Buffalo football.
BR: Have to go to Clapton for this… “Broken Down” Yesterday we were on a roll, baby, then we end up in a fight/Everywhere I look, I see problems, where I never seen before.
(Ed. Note… I think the theme should be Coach Quinn’s personal theme below, but I guess Clapton works as well.)
OTP: Prediction for not just the score, but how the game goes. The pace, the turning point, etc.
BR: Buffalo plays a great second and fourth quarter and the Cards have really punched the gas early in the game. BSU Is going to jump all over UB until the offense gets going and the Bulls will claw their way back in. The Bulls return two consecutive fumbles four touchdowns in the second half to run away with the game.