Last year it was Khalil Mack. The one guy that you tuned into watch to help you get through an otherwise painful season. While Mack is having a good year it is a little less exciting for fans because we all expected it.
Fair or not elevated expectations make it hard to be blown away by Mack. He is having a very solid season, in fact he will likely be first team all conference, but he is not standing out as much because the bar was set so high.
But one player is filling that role as the days roll on with the hope of a winning season, or even a respectable one, pretty much gone. This year fans had little to no expectations was the running game, and why would they? They Bulls had a depressing 3.9 yards per carry last season, had just one rushing touchdown but a half back, and seemed unable to to the simplest of things like go up the middle on third and inches.
Nothing great developed through the spring or summer, no one back was 'the guy' and fans were expecting Quinn to try and use Chazz Anderson to run his offense. Instead the passing game has been second fiddle to the BO show. Especially now that UB's top two dependable receivers are out of the lineup.
Alex Neutz going down for the season was the end of UB's passing game, as evidenced by their 1/13 performance on third downs against Eastern Michigan. So if Buffalo is to manage even one more win this season it will be up to Branden Oliver.
Yup, all 5'8" of him.
Despite his size Oliver is proving to be one of the toughest and more durable backs in the conference. Oliver has carried the Ball more than any other back in the Mid American Conference, seldom does a play start where he is not lined up along side, or just behind Chazz Anderson.
That workload, even with a modest 4.3 yards per carry, begins to really add up.
|2011 - Branden Oliver||10||243||1033||103.3||4.3||10||28||235||23.5||8.4||0|
Oliver has become just the fifth Buffalo back to eclipse the century mark in the entire history of the Program. With two games left he will likely pass some more people on the single season list.
The ten games it has taken him to hit the mark is made more impressive when you consider that for the most part UB Football teams have been playing ten or more games going all the way back to mid 1960's. His standing in the record books is not a matter or more opportunity, just more grit throughout the season.
So where is Oliver in the record Books?
So far Oliver stands at 345 carrier carries which is good four eighth all time among UB half backs. If he maintains his 2011 pace he will finish the season with 394 which puts him at seventh all time, just 20 behind Lee Jones for number six and almost hald way to Anthony Swan who carried the ball an astounding 812 times.
As you might guess you don't work your way onto the career list one one season without having an amazing year and Oliver's 243 pust him one shy of tyring Anthony Swan for number three on the list. If he hold's his pace he should pass James Starks for most carries in a season by the time UB finishes up with Bowling Green.
Oliver, like almost all UB Running Backs, was held out of the end zone last seasons. The Sophomore started 2011 with a blank slate but with 10 touchdowns if he maintains his pace he will be just a few scores out of the career top 10. His single season mark is tied for eight, and he is on pace to make it up to fourth.
100 Yard Games:
His six one hundred yard games is the third best that UB back has ever manged in a single season. One more and he will tie Anthony Swan and O.D. Underwood for the number one spot.
His Career mark is sited for fifth with Pat Whitehead, and with just two games left he won't be catching O.D Underwood this season. Underwood finished his career at UB with nine one hundred yard games.
Oliver's yards per carry has been, historically, pretty modest this season so he is nowhere near as high on the list as one might think. In terms of Career yards he has not even cracked the top ten, despite being close to number eight in all time attempts. The good news is that if he maintains his pace he may climb high enough to bump Lee Jones out of the number five spot.
His season to date has already earned him the five slot in single season yards. He is about 70 behind James Starks' 2007 mark. With a solid finish he could climb as high as number two but its hard to see him putting together three hundred yards in two games to over takes the 2008 season where Starks piled on 1333 yards.