By John Agovino, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: In 2008 the Bulls shocked the Mid-American Conference by defeating Ball State for the league title. The fans in Buffalo were hoping
for the same magic in 2009, and after a season-opening, 23-17 victory on the
road against Texas-El Paso, it looked as if the Bulls were going to make
another charge for the conference crown. However, that win would be the only
one in the month of September for Buffalo, as the Bulls were defeated by
Pittsburgh and UCF and started league play with a 37-13 setback against
Temple. After falling to Central Michigan (20-13) to open up October, the
Bulls charged through Gardner-Webb (40-3) and used a fourth quarter score to
upend Akron (21-17). Those two wins however, were followed by three straight
heartbreaking losses. A 34-31 overtime loss to Western Michigan was followed
by a 30-29 setback to Bowling Green, which scored two late fourth quarter
touchdowns to slip past Buffalo. The next setback came on a late field goal,
which propelled Ohio to a 27-24 win over the Bulls. Buffalo was able to close
out the season with a 42-17 victory over Miami-Ohio, and an ugly 9-6 decision
over Kent State.
On top of the lackluster season the Bulls also saw head coach Turner Gill
depart the program to take over at Kansas. In four seasons, Gill collected 20
wins, which is an accomplishment considering the team totaled just 10 wins in
the previous seven seasons.
OFFENSE: During Turner's tenure in Buffalo, the Bulls improved drastically
on offense and became a team that was capable of scoring in the blink of an
eye. However, new head coach Jeff Quinn sees room for further improvement.
"My philosophy of offense is taking great care of the football and minimizing
mental errors and that equates to putting points on the scoreboard," Quinn
said. "We will force the defense to defend the width and the length of the
field by creating multiple tempos to keep them off balance. Our identity will
be to have a balanced attack taking advantage of matchups. We want to create
space and get the ball in our playmaker?s hands."
While in theory that sounds like an excellent plan, it will surely be tough
for coach Quinn to implement with only four offensive starters returning, all
of which are linemen. Luckily the front line is filled with experienced
players, because they will need to play a big role while coach Quinn breaks in
a new quarterback. Zach Maynard's transfer to California leaves the door open
for Jerry Davis, who played in five games a year ago. However, Alex Dennison
is an athletic redshirt freshman that will compete with Davis for the starting
Even a bigger loss for Buffalo will be at wideout where the team will have to
replace Naaman Roosevelt and Brett Hamlin, two of the most productive
receivers in school history. Look for Terrell Jackson to be the team's main
target and if Marcus Rivers can overcome his own hands he could become a big
time red zone target.
In 2009 the Bulls averaged 163.5 ypg on the ground, but the team used more of
a committee in the backfield, and will likely do so again in 2010. Ike Nduka
and Brandon Thermilus led the team on the ground and combined for 10
touchdowns, but also expect Jeffvon Gill and Brandon Oliver to get some
touches as well.
DEFENSE: The strength of this unit entering the new season will be in the
defensive backfield, as the team returns three starters, including safety
Davonte Shannon. Shannon, who is a three-time All-MAC selection, will be
joined by corners Josh Thomas and Domonic Cook.
"This year?s group forms the nucleus of our experience with our corners having
depth and talent," Quinn said. "We have three players that have as many game-
day snaps as any defensive secondary group in the country, including a three-
time first-team All-Conference player in Davonte Shannon and three-year
starters in Josh Thomas and Domonic Cook."
The frontline is not as experienced, but the return of sophomore Steven
Means gives the Bulls a dangerous player off the end. Joining Means will be
Anel Montanez, who is a true run stopper in the middle. Justin Winters is a
nasty veteran linebacker that is back in the mix, and he will surely have to
be the leader of this group, especially since Scott Pettigrew will miss the
2010 campaign after suffering a severe knee injury in spring. Picking up the
slack for Pettigrew will be a difficult task, but look for Raphael Akobundu,
who has started 15 games to play a large role. Also John Syty and Fred Branch
should find ample playing time if all goes well.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Bulls could possess one of the best kicker/punter tandems
in the league, as A.J. Principe and Peter Fardon return for their senior and
junior campaigns, respectively. Principe nailed 10-of-13 field goals last
season and now holds the school record with 37 field goals. The return game
will likely be handled by Cook, but there are plenty of elusive athletes on
this roster that could step in and do an admirable job.
OUTLOOK: With coach Quinn's new style of offense, the Bulls are sure to score
points. The Bulls should dominate opponents with the pass, but will also be
inclined to run the ball, creating a balanced attack similar to the past
couple of seasons. However, the real hero for Buffalo this year could
be the defense, which returns plenty of experienced players. With Shannon
leading the way, this could be one of the more surprising units in the
What makes Buffalo a dark horse in the MAC race this season is its schedule
which definitely works in the team's favor. The only rough patch on an
otherwise workable slate of games is a three game road trip that will send
the Bulls to Connecticut, Bowling Green and Northern Illinois. If the Bulls
stampede through that section of their schedule with minimal problems than
this Buffalo squad would have a legitimate shot for a league title.