It's fair to say that the word which best describes the past two years of UB football can't safely be said out loud in a PG-13 atmosphere. Despite all that pain maybe then UB Athletic director Warde Manuel knew what he was talking about when he told UB fans that their was a light at the end of the tunnel.
During a 2011 interview, while UB was in the midst of another dumpster fire, Manuel stated that behind the scenes he saw the foundation for future success being laid by Quinn and his coaching staff. Last season UB fans got a slight glimpse of that in the play of Branden Oliver.
Oliver's size belies his speed and power. He is not a crafty back, nor is he a burner but he does both well enough to be extremely dangerous. He has a terrific one cut down hill style that is well complimented by a compact powerful frame. Once Branden gets a head of steam going he is very hard to bring down and in the open field he has the ability to spin around defenders with a single change of direction.
While he has natural gifts most people who work with Oliver start by talking about hist work ethic. During the heat of the Summer BO has been know to strap on weights and run up and down hills located in and around UB's Amherst campus. He's even inspired a few other players to join in.
The results have been nothing short of amazing. James Stark's records which destined to stay on top for years to come are already in danger. Last season Oliver put up eight 100 yard games, including a 235 yard performance against Akron.
He set single season records in Attempts, Yards, and 100 yard games. He cracked the top ten in several other categories. This was accomplished while the team won just three games and had a mediocre passing attack.
This season Alex Zordich is proving a far more able quarterback than many had anticipated. Alex Neutz seems back to form after a season ending hand injury last year. Finally the UB offensive line is both more experienced and far healthier than last season.
Oliver has all the tools around him to do something very special this season.
He has already done something only on back managed last season. He ran for more than 100 yards on Georgia's defense. The week after giving up 111 to Oliver in their home opener the Bulldogs went to Missouri and held the Tigers offense to just 102.
Meanwhile back in Amherst Oliver followed up his Georgia performance with a 237 yard whopper against Morgan State. The number is just another school record in Oliver's collection. He's also moved up in a few categories and has cracked to top 10 in career touchdowns.
|J Franklin, UCLA
|B Oliver, Buffalo
|Cody Getz, AForce
|B. Miller, Ohio St.
|S Jefferson, Nev
|Le'Veon Bell, MSI
|Tim Cornett, UNLV
|K Carey, Arizona
|A Ellington, Clem
Oh yea, and right Now Branden Oliver is the second most productive running back in college football.
He, and everyone else, are pretty far behind Franklin of UCLA but Oliver is edging out Cody Getz of Air Force and 40 yards ahead of tenth ranked Andre Ellington from Clemson.
Two games may be far too early to get ones hopes up but UB has played the best team they will see, and they have played the worst team they will see.
When the Bulls take on Kent state they will come up on a team which can be described as "an average MAC team".
The Flashes have spent the past couple of years at 5-7 but Kent State does feature a pretty decent defense. This game will not only be a good gauge for how the team will fare the rest of this season but could also serve as a test for Branden Oliver.
The Flashes, led by a tough defensive line, are only giving up 127 yards rushing per game and just 4.25 per carry. Both of those numbers stand at fifth in the conference. Though UB will play the teams currently ranked 1-4 as well.
If Oliver and the Bulls can have an impressive outing against Kent then things might be lining up for a six or seven win season. Some games that looked difficult are now far more winnable. Teams like Pitt are falling flat and UB's level of play seems to match up with the Bowling Green Falcons and Western Michigan Broncos.
Perhaps Warde was right. Perhaps while rabid UB fans were lambasting some terrible football Coach Quinn was busy building his team, taking his time, and making sure that when success comes to Buffalo again it stays at least a few seasons.