After a heartbreaking loss to Army and an expected loss to Baylor it's time for UB to get back on the horse and start winning games.
With nine games remaining in the season UB has to win six more for a realistic shot at a bowl game. While technically this week's match against Norfolk State will have no effect on UB's postseason future I imagine a loss would "look" bad enough to keep us home this winter.
So with that in mind who is Norfolk State?
Norfolk State University is a public four-year, coed, liberal arts school, founded in 1935. It's an historically black university located in Norfolk, Virginia and a member-school of Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the Virginia High-Tech Partnership.
They picked up football in 1953 and moved to the MEAC in 1997. Coming into this season the Spartans have an all time record of 334–334–14. Against FBS competition they sit at 0-6.
Despite a winless slate against the Bowl Subdivision Norfolk is not regularly an FCS doormat. Just two years ago the Spartans finished their season 9-3 and took a #15 national ranking into the FCS Playoffs.
The Spartans come to Buffalo led by freshman quarterback Terrance Ervin. Ervin won the job over three returning quarterbacks and will work behind an offensive line led by preseason All-MEAC offensive linemen Justin Myler and Mike Phillips.
They came into the year unsure about who would carry the load out of the backfield but soon settled on Aaron Daniels who appeared in all 12 games last season but mainly as a member of the special teams. This season he has 208 yards through three games with an average carry of 5.1 yards.
They bring back most of their defense from last season. The unit features nine starters from the 2013 unit that ranked 13th in the nation among FCS teams. Six of the nine returning starters were named to the 2014 Preseason All-MEAC first, second or third teams, led by MEAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and FCS All-America linebacker Lynden Trail.
Trail is something of a unique talent. Often you will see FBS defensive ends from mid major of FCS school scouted as linebackers in the NFL because you can't coach size. Well Lynden Trail switched the story line. The FCS linebacker is getting serious looks from the NFL as an end. In fact CBSSports.com rates Trail as the No. 13 defensive end prospect for the 2015 draft, the highest FCS player on the board.
They have three talented linebackers in seniors Trail and Marcell Coke and junior Deon King. All three were named to the preseason College Football Performance Awards FCS Linebacker Award Watch List. The initial watch list includes 38 linebackers vying for the top linebacker award in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Despite the strong defense NSU was picked to finish sixth in the MEAC this season in the preseason poll and have started the year at 0-3, winless mainly because of reoccurring problems with their offense.
This game should be more a test of UB's offense than their defense. NSU's problems on offense go back several seasons but their defensive front has been one of the better units in the FCS ranks for the past five years or so; partially because of FBS transfers like Trail and partially because their head coach Pete Adrian has his roots as a defensive guy. Before coming to NSU he was the defensive coordinator for Bethune-Cookman.
Adrian has been with the Spartans for 16 years and most two of his three defensive coaches have been with the program for a decade. The program is a model of stability.
This game could be a chance Boise Ross to get acquainted with the cornerback position. The UB wideout was moved over to the defensive backfield to cover while Marqus Baker recovers from an Illness that has stretched the secondary.
UB's defensive backfield has looked vulnerable all season. The damage by Baylor was expected but Army and Duquesne both had a fair amount of success throwing the ball on Buffalo. If Norfolk State, a team mired in offensive mediocrity, can light up UB's secondary it's hard to see six conference wins for the Bulls.