The Massachusetts Minutemen (2-9, 1-6) will close out their regular season slate as they travel to face the Buffalo Bulls (5-6, 3-4) in a Mid-American Conference East Division matchup Friday afternoon. Buffalo has won the previous three meetings, including a 41-21 win on the road as a 3.5 point favorite on November 28, 2014 in the most recent matchup.
Massachusetts is coming off a 20-13 loss at home to Miami (OH) Saturday that allowed the RedHawks to snap a 22 game road losing skid. Buffalo was defeated 42-21 on the road by Akron Saturday and needs a win here to become bowl eligible. Kickoff from UB Stadium in Buffalo, New York is slated for 4:30 pm ET and will be televised on ESPNU. Buffalo is currently a 6.5 point favorite in this contest with the over/under set at 51.5 points.
Massachusetts couldn’t pick up a win in what was expected to be a prime opportunity to record a W on the schedule. The Minutemen struggled offensively as they were outgained 299-250, lost the first down battle 18-13 and allowed Miami (OH) to control time of possession by a 33:39 to 26:21 margin in the contest. Both teams committed only one turnover in the game but normally prolific quarterback Blake Frohnapfel hit just 17 of 34 passes for 181 yards with an interception; the Minutemen blew leads of 6-0 and 13-10.
The Minutemen do plenty of damage through the air as they are averaging 266.1 yards per game (35th in the nation) but they are putting up only 128.4 yards a game (115th in the nation) on the ground while averaging 4.1 yards per carry. The Minutemen are putting up 21.4 points per game but they are a sieve defensively as they allow 31.9 points per contest, which is 93rd in the country in scoring defense. Blake Frohnapfel has completed 257 of 450 passes for 2,756 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 picks; Ross Comis has hit 15 of 21 passes for 171 yards and two scores in relief. Marquis Young is the team’s leading rusher with 119 carries for 733 yards and four scores while Jamal Wilson chips in 82 carries for 374 yards and six touchdowns. Tajae Sharpe, a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist, has reeled in a team high 105 passes for 1,181 yards and five scores on the year. Marken Michel is next in line for the Minutemen with 31 grabs for 370 yards and four touchdowns while Wilson has added 24 catches out of the backfield; Rodney Mills (32 catches, 468 yards, 3 TD) and Shakur Nesmith (15 grabs, 204 yards, 3 TD) are good targets as well to take pressure off Sharpe. Three kickers for the Minutemen have banged through 28 of 30 extra points and nine of 13 field goals this season with a long of 48 yards.
Buffalo has dropped two straight after winning three in a row as they were outclassed by the Zips on the road. The Bulls went down 14-0 after one quarter and never really got back in the game; they were no closer than seven at any point thereafter. Buffalo was outgained 475-392, lost the first down battle 25-23 and the time of possession battle by a 35:25 to 24:35 margin in the contest. The Bulls were also hurt by three turnovers as the defense failed to generate a takeaway while Akron had two touchdown drives start inside the Buffalo 40.
The Bulls are averaging 246.1 yards (44th in the nation) per game through the air and 134.8 yards (108th in the nation) in rushing offense. Buffalo averages 26.7 points per game, which is tied for 84th in the nation and is currently sitting 72nd in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 27.3 points per game. Senior Joe Licata runs the offense for the Bulls and he’s been pretty good as he’s completed 261 of 409 throws for 2,682 yards with 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Anthone Taylor is the lead back in the ground game with 166 carries for a team high 744 yards plus two scores while Jordan Johnson adds 152 carries for 734 yards and 11 touchdowns. Taylor missed the win over Ohio and played sparingly against Miami (OH); Johnson’s solid play has given him time to recover a bit. Ron Willoughby is the tied for the team lead in receptions with 57 receptions for a team high 759 yards and six scores; Matt Weiser, an athletic tight end, has a share of the team lead with 57 grabs for 557 yards and two scores while Collin Lisa contributes 31 catches for 325 yards plus a pair of touchdowns and Marcus McGill is good for 47 grabs for 503 yards and two scores. Adam Mitcheson has booted 29 of 34 extra points and 11 of 17 field goal attempts this season with a long of 46 yards.
Buffalo is 4-1 ATS in their last five after an ATS loss and 7-2 ATS in their last nine after allowing at least 450 yards in their last game. Massachusetts is 1-4 ATS in their last five after a straight up loss, 1-4 ATS in their last five after an ATS loss, 1-4 ATS in their last five in November, 1-5 ATS in their last six on the road, 1-7 ATS in their last eight against teams with a losing record and 1-8 ATS in their last nine conference games.
Massachusetts has good weapons offensively but it’s important to notice that they couldn’t beat a Miami (OH) team at home that had dropped 22 straight on the road last week. Factor in that Buffalo is a better team at home than they are on the road and things tend to work in their favor. The Bulls need this win in order to become bowl eligible; look for them to get that victory in front of the home crowd.