We talked to Orange and Brown over at FalconBlog to preview Saturday's game against the 2-2 Bowling Green Falcons.
What a great start to the season. Big wins over Purdue and Maryland, a close loss to undefeated Memphis, and BG fought Tennessee hard. What was the expectations of the first four game as compared to the actual outcome?
Given that the schedule did not contain an FCS team and showed us at home with a very good Memphis team and at 2 Big 10 teams, I think that 2-2 was considered the best case scenario. Given that even in the losses, BG competed and could easily be 3-1, I would say this year's team is ahead of schedule. For where we are in the country, there is no win like a win over a Big 10 team (even Maryland), and the fan base is in a very good mood as we enter MAC play.
Buffalo fans are glad Clawson left as he owned Buffalo. Dino had a solid first season including a bowl victory. Season ended tough in the MAC but overall a good year. How has the transition been for the coach and fan base?
Well, last year things were not good. Yes, on paper the team had a decent season, coming off a MAC Championship and with most of your players returning and picked to repeat, you'd like to have represented better. There was also a ton of off-season hype about the offense. Following the '14 season, things were much quieter in Falconland. Coach made a key change at DC, bringing in a guy not from his EIU staff and Matt Johnson returned from injury and with those two Big 10 wins, I'd say that things are much rosier in BG.
Matt Johnson is a great fit for the 5 wide receiver set. Talk about Johnson and being able to throw the ball to Lewis, Moore, Burbrink, and Dieter?
You have to give Matt Johnson credit, he is now succeeding in his second offensive system...and they are radically different. BG's offense is loaded with skills players, starting with Johnson, including the great receivers as well as running backs Travis Greene and Fred Coppet. The combinations make BG very hard to defend. Memphis played BG close to the line and the Falcons went over the top with great success and Purdue played BG deep and the Falcons hit the short game all day. Coach Babers says the offense still has to score more touchdowns, and he is proving that he means it by going for it on 4ths all over the field--inside our own 15 against Tennessee.
The Bulls and Falcons were to have a good offense and defense hoping to saw improvement. I see some struggles early from a defense that had to reload. Give the Bulls fans some insight on the defensive side of the ball?
BG's defense was identified right out of the box as the team's main weakness and our goal was just to get last year's awful defense into above average territory. BG graduated almost everyone off that team, had two additional players get kicked off the team and had a new DC. For all that, the defense is better than expected and might be better to date than what we saw last year. Given that, it is far from being great or even good. They compete all the way, they are pretty good tacklers and have made some big plays in the red zone. With the offensive firepower, they just need to hold teams in the 30s to give BG a shot to win and I think they can do that.
Picked to win the MAC East although Ohio might have something to say. The Falcons take on the Bulls with a streak of 12 straight victories over MAC East foes. I assume you have BG in the MAC championship but the question is who do you play against?
I do think BG will win the East. I am, in fact, more sure of it than I was when the season started, when I didn't think we had the ability to really get any stops. I believe that UT is the best team in the MAC however (which gives me great pain to say), and I think that if that plays out you will see the BG-UT rivalry go to war at Ford Field.
So there's a new Coach in town and a really interesting hire...a highly successful DIII Coach. How has he changed the Bulls style of play and the culture of the program?
Leipold has been OK so far. Many are glad UB did not go after another character like Quinn. Lance is a classy man with a great story. The jury is still out but overall the fan base is pleased with the hire. Some have concerns over, for lack of a better cleaner word, conservative play calls the past couple of games. The offense has really stalled.
The other troublesome trend is penalties. Buffalo especially at Penn State beat themselves with terrible penalties like false starts. Obviously Bulls fans are hoping to correct the penalties and get the offense moving, but most everybody still has faith in Lance.
You're 2-2, but could easily be 3-1. How do you feel the season is going to date?
If you asked me before the season, I would have taken 2-2. After watching the games, I have a bad taste in my mouth. Buffalo is still looking for that non-MAC signature win and Penn State could have been that. As I stated before, it was not what Penn State did, it was UB shooting themselves in the foot. It was a good win over Florida Atlantic but UB could have beat Nevada.
I will take it, but could have been much more.
Do you have any idea what Leipold does in the locker room at halftime? Does it involve human sacrifice? You are winning the third quarter 43-3.
Whatever it is, it's the complete opposite of Quinn. Leipold won all those games for a reason. He's a great football mind and from all that I hear the players are totally bought in. He's surrounded himself with coaches he can trust. I look forward to seeing how Lance can recruit. Overall, it has been a long time since great half time adjustments for the Bulls. Great question.
On offense, Anthone Taylor is getting big yards but carrying a lot and Licata seems to effective except for picks. What have you seen out of the Bull offense so far and what can we expect Saturday.
I'm really surprised by the lack of production by the offense. Both BG and UB lost so much on the defensive side with big question marks heading into the season. Where Johnson has come back and led the country, Licata has regressed. The fan base hopes Joe gets going against familiar foes. I would have predicted a monster score for this game before the season started. Now I am not sure what UB will be able to put up against a defense that is improving.
The defensive line is looking surprisingly solid and did well against serious competition. Taylor has been the real deal so far. Keep an eye out for #1 and change of pace runner #2 Jordan Johnson. Like Bowling Green the Bulls have real talent at WR and TE. The issue has been getting the ball to them.
The defense is certainly very solid so far. Who are the standouts BG fans should watch for?
I have spent a ton of time on the other #1 Boise Ross at CB., who's got a pick-six and leads the nation in pass break ups. Great defender, watch for him. The strength of the defense is at linebacker. Nick Gilbo is a solid contributor and Okezie Alozie is making big plays, but if you are to key in one player it is #23 Brandon "Crunch" Berry. Brandon has been a force on the field.
Pressure on the QB has generally come from the linebacker position. The Bulls except for two big runs vs. Nevada are stout against the run but not strong at putting pressure on the QB. Watch for Brandon as the LB’s make some special plays this weekend.
Are KC and the Sunshine Band really playing? Before or after the game?
Sure are! The new AD has created a concert series to try to lure students and fans to the game. A large stage has been built on a converted parking lot called Stampede Square for a large pregame party with live music. For the Baylor game last year when a big crowd did show up it was awesome. It was a big time college football atmosphere. Most of the acts are country, and for the life of me, how does anyone listen to that crap?
For what it is worth, my 73 year old Dad is going to the game and mainly to see KC do a little dance but hopefully not see him get down tonight.
Lastly my prediction is BG 35 – UB 17