Amherst, NY (WGR 550) -- The UB football team opened their home portion of the schedule Saturday night with a FCS opponent in Morgan State and followed it up with an expected and relatively easy win. The headline from this game though showed that the Bulls have big time talent at two key playmaking positions that may raise their expectations for the upcoming MAC conference schedule.
Junior running back Brandon Oliver and wide receiver Alex Neutz gave the home fans plenty to cheer about against the Bears; with both setting career marks in the 56-34 win. Oliver almost averaged 10 yards a carry and racked up a record 238 yards and 2 touchdowns. Had Oliver played the whole game, he might’ve broken the 300-yard mark. He was unstoppable Saturday night and while the opponent was not a strong one, his 111-yard effort last week on the road at then sixth-ranked Georgia shows that Oliver could be on his way to a very memorable season.
Neutz, also a junior and a Grand Island native, broke a UB school D-I record with four TD receptions against Morgan State, with each of them more spectacular than the previous. Neutz almost routinely went up to catch balls that resulted in scores that kept the Bulls comfortably ahead for virtually the entire game.
Beyond the great stats from the pair of current Bulls in the win, I couldn’t stop from reflecting back to the MAC championship season, when James Starks and Naaman Roosevelt would repeat the outcomes given by Oliver and Neutz on a weekly basis. The Bulls offensively for years never quite had the playmakers on offense until Starks and Roosevelt came along which allowed the team to have great balance and eventually a trip to a bowl game.
As long as I have followed the MAC, its been all about great quarterback play and finding the playmakers to compliment him. Drew Willy, UB’s signal caller during the MAC title season, clearly was a major factor as well. Now the big question is, can UB’s current quarterback, Alex Zordich, play even close to what Willy did during his tenure at UB. Zordich seems to have a great chemistry with Neutz, but did miss a long throw that would’ve been an easy score and also threw an interception in the 2nd half that was clearly a poor decision. With Oliver and Neutz in the lineup, it may be Zordich, and his play, which determines how successful this 2012 campaign will be.
The Bulls enter conference play in a week and a half with Kent State coming to Amherst for a nationally televised game. Coach Jeff Quinn knows the pressure for him to produce his first winning season on the UB sidelines is front and center. A healthy dose of Oliver and Neutz may his best chance to reach that feat.
If you did not attend Saturday’s game, you missed two great performances from two UB players, but you also missed out on the best marching band I have ever seen in person. Morgan State’s “Marching Machine” was incredibly entertaining and definitely worth seeing if you ever have the chance.