It was grueling for Fred Lee to watch from the sidelines as the University at Buffalo’s offense labored to score points, but his time away from the field was well spent.
Lee, who suffered a hand injury during the loss to Kent State in September, started last Saturday against Toledo with a renewed understanding of his leadership responsibilities.
“When I went out, my role changed drastically," said Lee, a junior wide receiver from Chester, S.C. “I met with Coach [Jeff] Quinn and Coach [Alex] Wood and it was tough for me. They talked with me about the leadership and character that I’ve been blessed with.”
Lee took on the mentality of a coach as he mentored the team’s receivers, which doesn’t have a senior among the top six players.
“You never know who’s going to be that guy who goes out, I didn’t want to be that guy, but I happened to be that guy who went out," said Lee, who caught one pass against Toledo. “I worked hard to give them everything I could give them. Physically and talent wise, they’re right there. Just a few things mentally — play-calling, reading defenses, certain things I was able to stand back and watch. From being on the sidelines I saw a lot of things I could go back and do better at when I got the opportunity to come back and play"
One of those aspects was blocking, and Quinn said Lee contributed in the run game as the Bulls averaged 4.4 yards a carry against the Rockets.
“Fred’s attitude is it doesn’t matter if I’m catching them or blocking, I’m going to go out there and compete," Quinn said. “That’s a big lift for our offense."
Starting quarterback Alex Zordich left Saturday’s game after being “shook up" according to Quinn, not because of ineffective play.
Zordich, who practiced on Tuesday, is expected to start on Saturday against Miami (Ohio).
“He was very upbeat [Monday]," Quinn said. “I don’t think he feels pain because he’s that kind of tough kid."
Zordich rushed for 67 yards but struggled with his passing, completing just 5 of 16 passes for 118 yards and a 42-yard touchdown to Devin Campbell in the second quarter. He was replaced by former Williamsville South quarterback Joe Licata.
“We put Joe in there because of that and we left him in there," Quinn said. “Alex Zordich, who is probably one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached in my entire career, he was shook up. We did not pull Alex Zordich out of the game. … it was done because he was shook up. We thought it was in the best interest of our football team to put Joe in there and it was great to see him command the offense."
Licata completed 5 of 11 for 68 yards and a TD — an 8-yard pass to Alex Neutz in the fourth quarter — but fumbled after being sacked on the Bulls’ final drive.
“He does have a good sense and understands the game," Quinn said. “I’m excited about continuing to watch his growth and development. … It was nice to see Joe be able to get in there and move the offense and get us a nice score right at the beginning to the fourth quarter but it wasn’t enough."
Quinn said junior tailback Bo Oliver (knee), who missed four games, feels good after returning Saturday but sophomore free safety Witney Sherry is doubtful for this week. Sherry’s injury has opened playing time for Derek Brim, a junior walk-on from Canisius High. The 6-foot, 188-pound Brim finished with a career-best nine tackles against Toledo, which was also a team-high.