The Buffalo Bulls will come south to visit the state of Georgia for the first time in the school’s history as they meet the Bulldogs in Sanford Stadium. But it won’t be the Bulls’ first foray into SEC football.
Buffalo played Tennessee in Neyland Stadium last year, losing 41-10. It also played at Auburn in 2006, falling 38-6. Coach Jeff Quinn, speaking on the Mid-American Conference coaches teleconference call said it is the Bulls’ philosophy to take on at least one major college program every year. They actually played at both Penn State (45-24 loss) and Baylor (34-21 loss) in 2007. Of course, they do it for the money for their athletic department budgets and “to gauge where we’re at” against the best teams in the country, Quinn said.
The Bulls will bring 66 players — including 16 returning starters — to Athens on Saturday for a 12:21 p.m. kickoff that will be regionally televised on the SEC network. Five of those Buffalo players are from the state of Georgia. Following are some of the highlights of Quinn’s 11-minute session with reporters, all of them calling in from Georgia . . .
On playing Georgia in Athens . . .
“We’re excited and ready to play. This opening game on the road is a tremendous opportunity for our program and players and coaches, to compete against the No. 6-ranked team in the country and defending SEC East division champs in Georgia. . . . This is a Georgia team that has a tremendous amount of players an talent and they’re well-coached. They’ve got great balance on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Their quarterback [Aaron] Murray is one of the best I’ve seen — strong arm, very accurate, great decision maker. His offensive line gives him a lot of time to find his two main weapons, Tavarres King and Marlon Brown, both seniors. So our defense is really gonna have to step up and put some pressure on him and the ball when it’s in the air. And certainly be challenging with our run defense. Offensively, we’ve got to continue to create a well-balanced productive system. We’re continuously trying to run the ball with Bo [Oliver] coming back, and he’s had a great fall camp. I feel really good about him. Our special teams, we have to make sure we do a great job in that area. All three phases have to come together. We’re going to need all 66 we’re taking down to Georgia. I’m eager to see the guys compete and I’m excited about where we’re at.”
On his coaching points despite being a 37-point underdog
“We obviously want to go into this game basing our goals on execution in all three phases. Certainly when we talk about the consistency of our football team, to play against a quality-caliber opponent like Georgia is going to make for some difficult moments in the game. But our kids have got to dig deep . That’s a big part of this. Georgia does a great job of completing the deep ball. We’ve got to stay away from giving up a bunch of big plays. But really, we’ve got nothing to lose. We go down for the national exposure to play against a great team like Georgia. We know our focus is on this one particular game but also there are 11 other games. We’re always talking to our kids about competing for the Mid-American Conference championship. This opportunity to play a great-caliber team like Georgia is going to give us some insight on where we’re at, and also to be able to see some of our depth. All 66 guys are going to have an opportunity potentially to get in this game.”
On how last year’s experience at Tennessee might help . . .
“When you play against that caliber of a team, you know, well-coached, talented, our kids have an opportunity to see where they’re at in their development. This will be the third-largest stadium our program has ever competed in. . . . But these kids have had a taste of these types of games and opportunities. We have 16 returning starters back that were at Tennessee that will be playing for us at Georgia. I feel good that the maturity and development of our program is where we want it to be. Certainly it will be important to see how we rate against a SEC team. We just want to play one play at a time and compete as hard as we can for as long as we can. Then we’ll see where it ends up at the end.”
Were the Bulls wide-eyed and overwhelmed at Tennessee? . . .
“They were excited. When you get a chance to play in against a storied program in a storied stadium, one that has a January tradition like Penn State, like Georgia, like all the great teams in the SEC, you go in there and think what a great opportunity it will be to go down there and play. That’s what it’s about. These kids and myself, we understand how to keep things in perspective. We play four non-league games this year as we do every year and our focus is to get ready to competed for the Mid-American Conference championship. When you play against some of the best-caliber teams, I think our kids realize that we’re not that far away. These kids understand that these games are played for a reason, to have that national exposure. It’s just an exciting experience for these young men. Certainly it will go down in the history books of our program as one of the great opportunities that we’ve had on our schedule. But we need to understand that it’s one of 12 and be able to come out of this one with every single starter feeling good about where they’re at and our back-ups. We’re going to give them a chance to get in there and compete just because it’s going top be a hot, humid day. I know with that. 12:20 kickoff it will be 85 degrees and some humid weather. Our kids are going to have to be locked in, all 66 of them need to be ready to compete.”
On facing Georgia’s over-sized, defensive front . . .
“Our offensive line is going to be challenged. Our tight ends, our running backs, our fullback, too. In the run game, I feel really good about where our development has been and our identity as far as being able to run the ball. But also, we’ve got to give our quarterback a chance to get the ball out of his hands. So we’ve got to continuously keep an eye on Jarvis Jones. He’s a great player, No. 29. If you put him in a lot of singled-up matchups with our offensive line and our backs, he’s going to win most of those battles. So we have to be very, very conscientious in our schemes and structure if we’re going to control the protections so our quarterback can get the ball out of his hands.”
On Georgia’s offense . . .
“Certainly we know the ball’s going to be in the air. We know Aaron Murray is a great quarterback and he has some big-time, play-making teammates that will go down field. So we just need to compete, just like we talk with our kids about. We need to out-execute and hold it together. We’re a Division A team and 92,000 people in there are going to be very, very antagonistic in regards to the hostility of that environment. But I feel good about this team. There are a lot of kids returning and they’ve seen a lot of things and they’ve been through a lot, they’ve grown closer together. They’re a determined group of men and they understand how important it is and Saturday will give us an idea where we’re at at this point.”
On confusion over Georgia’s personnel due to unresolved suspension issues . . .
“We haven’t really discussed that much. We know whoever they put out on that field is going to be very talented. Ball players are competitive and hungry to prove themselves. They list a number of tailbacks. I would believe all of them are going to get a shot to get in and play. But certainly when we look at this kind of situation, we’re dealing with our players and our focus is on our players and our coaches and how we can get better against a very talented football team. But whoever they line up is going to be an outstanding football player and they’re going to be competitive and we’ve got to be ready to play against whoever they put out there.”
On their top linebacker Khalil Mack being suspended for Georgia game . . .
“No question it hurts us. He’s been very disruptive. He’s one of our best players. But we’ve got to continue to move forward. We’ve got other guys like Willie Mosely and Ken Roberson. They’ve got to step up. It’s a great lesson our kids have to understand. When there’s a guy who gets hurt or is not able to compete in a game other kids have to be able to step up. We’ve got a mentality here where we say “next Bull in.” That happens. Georgia’s facing it and we’re facing. It’s going to be difficult., but we’ve got a lot of young men that are determined to go out there and prove their worth and they’re going to have to do that on Saturday. So they’re excited. We’ve had some very, very lively practices and competitive battles at each and every position. I feel good about where we’re at. We’ll certainly see where things are after this Saturday.”
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