The University at Buffalo traveled more than 2,700 miles over the last three weeks and finally returns to UB Stadium on Saturday to face Pittsburgh.
The Bulls (1-5) could use some home cooking after consecutive road losses to Connecticut, Ohio University and Northern Illinois. UB, which has lost four in a row overall, plays its next four at home against the Panthers (2-4), Toledo, Miami (Ohio) and Western Michigan.
“It’s nice to have these four games at home coming up because we’re really excited about putting everything together and playing well,” junior tight end Alex Dennison said.
But last Saturday’s 45-3 loss was especially gruesome.
“Our kids are holding strong and they know that they are fully capable of playing better than what they’ve represented on the field Saturday,” UB coach Jeff Quinn said. “It’s one game, we need to move on, not to forget, the 24-hours [rule] is not to forget but to move on and get our kids locked in on the next opponent.”
Dennison said the players are taking a one-game-at-a-time approach to the next four weeks.
“After last week we came together as a team and that’s what I think is important with this group of guys that we have,” the junior tight end said. “We’re so close that after a loss like that we don’t look at it so negatively, we look at each other and see what we can do to get better and how we can approach the next couple of weeks to make this season what we want it to be.”
There are a few changes on the depth chart, primarily on defense.
Senior Willie Moseley moves from back-up outside linebacker and is now starting at inside linebacker ahead of sophomore Jake Stockman and senior Scott Pettigrew. Senior Isaac Baugh moves back to outside linebacker after starting the last few games at strong safety, while junior Okoye Houston has been elevated from a back-up role to the starter at strong safety. Also, sophomore Kendall Roberson will back up Khalil Mack at outside linebacker.
On offense, junior Jimmy Gordon will split time at tight end and fullback and Dennison will see more time at tight end and possibly in the backfield at tailback.
Junior Branden Oliver, who has missed the last three games because of a knee injury, is doing more in practice according to Quinn, but is questionable for Saturday’s game.
“He did some stuff [on Monday], but we’re not going to hit him,” Quinn said. “He’s going through drills and he’s doing stuff out on the field. Is he in a live situation yet? No, but he’s getting better.”
UB goes from defending a dual quarterback threat in Jordan Lynch to a pocket passer in Pitt’s Tino Sunseri, who is the Big East’s most efficient passer with a 163.49 rating.
Over the Panthers’ last four games, the senior has completed 74 percent of his passes for 1,233 yards and eight touchdowns with one interception.