It won't be long now before the University at Buffalo Bulls take to the grid iron for their 2012 season and it won't be an easy start.
The Bulls' will open the regular season at noon on Saturday, Sept. 1, when they play at the Georgia Bulldogs (of the South East Conference), in a non-league game that will be aired nationally on both the SEC Network and ESPN3. Their 2012 home opener is a week later when they host Morgan State at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8 (Time-Warner Cable Sportsnet).
Besides home contests against Kent State (Sept. 19), Toledo (Oct. 27), Miami of Ohio (Nov. 3) and Western Michigan (Nov. 10), the Bulls' Homecomeing game is great one when they host Pittsburgh at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20.
The Bulls finished a disappointing 3-9 a year ago, but there were several bright spots, as four players were named to the All-Mid-American Conference Football Team. Running back Branden Oliver and linebacker Khalil Mack earned First Team honors, wide receiver Marcus Rivers was named to the second team and Terrell Jackson earned honorable mention honors as a punt returner.
The Bulldogs finished 10-4 in 2011 and were ranked 19th nationally, en route to winning their fourth SEC East title in the last 10 years and also won 10 games for the seventh time in the last 10 seasons. Along the way, Georgia defeated rivals Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech all in the same season for the first time since 1981.
Individually, Aaron Murray set the school record for season TD passes with 35, cornerback Brandon Boykin set the Bulldogs' career returns record and was named winner of the 2011 Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most versatile player; and three Bulldogs earned First Team All-America recognition, linebacker Jarvis Jones, free safety Bacarri Rambo and center Ben Jones.
The kickoff time is set at 12:21 pm. This is the second straight year that the Bulls are playing a road game at an SEC Stadium and their first ever contest with Georgia.
The Panthers were 6-7 a year ago and return three players who had strong seasons in 2011, senior quarterback Tino Sunseri threw for 2,616 yards, senior running back Ray Graham ran for 958 yards and junior wide receiver Devin Street added 754 receiving yards.
Countering that will be Oliver, who had a record-breaking season with the Bulls, becoming the single-season leader in rushing attempts (306), rushing yards (1,395 rushing yards, breaking the school mark of 1,333 by James Starks (Niagara Falls High School) in 2008) all-purpose yards (1,760, breaking Starks' record of 1,694) and 100-yard rushing games in a season (8). The Miami native also ranked second in the MAC in rushing yards per game (116.2).
Fellow sophomore Mack also had a breakout season for the Bulls, leading the conference and ranked fourth in the nation in tackles for loss with 20.5 — one shy of the single-season school record. He also ranked nationally in forced fumbles with five (10th). Mack finished the season with 65 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 13 quarterback hurries, three passes defended and a blocked punt.
Rivers had a team-high 60 catches to rank eighth in school history for a single season. He finished with 615 receiving yards and two TDs on the year. Jackson is the only UB player to repeat as an All-MAC honoree. He was named to the First Team last year. Jackson's season was cut short when he suffered a season-ending injury against Temple, but still finished with 12 punt returns for 79 yards — a 6.6-yard average.
The Bulls will battle Kent State on the national stage in a primetime matchup on ESPNU at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 19. Buffalo's tilt with Toledo on Oct. 27 will also kick off at 3:30 p.m and will be aired live on TWCS. UB's final two home games of the season against Miami (Nov. 3) and Western Michigan (Nov. 10) will both start at noon.
Besides the game at Georgia, the Bulls also have away games at Connecticut (Sept. 29), Ohio (Oct. 6), Northern Illinois (Oct. 13), Massachusetts (Nov. 17) and closing out their season, at Bowling Green on Nov. 23.
2012 UB FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
1 @ Georgia Noon ESPN3/SEC
8 MORGAN ST. 6 p.m. TWCS
19 KENT ST. 7 p.m. ESPNU
29 @ Connecticut Noon ESPN3/SNY
6 @ Ohio Noon ESPN+
13 @ Northern Illinois 3:30 PM
20 PITTSBURGH 3:30 p.m. ESPN+
27 TOLEDO 3:30 p.m. TWCS
3 MIAMI (OH) Noon
10 W. MICHIGAN 3:30 p.m.
17 @ Massachusetts TBA
23 @ Bowling Green TBA ESPNU/ESPN3
30 MAC Championship TBA