1. In a Rush. Still trying to make sense of the play calling down the stretch of last week’s loss to Toledo. Branden Oliver’s gouging the Rockets on the ground. The best-case scenario is a clock-devouring drive to the go-ahead touchdown. So how does it go from there: three throws, one completion, minus-3 yards. It was a baffling sequence from a team that wants to build its offensive identity around the running game. Miami offers UB a chance at redemption. Everyone’s run on the the RedHawks, who are yielding more than 220 rushing yards a game. This is no time to over-think the approach, even with the change at QB.
2. Still Firing Away. It seems like senior Zac Dysert’s been Miami’s quarterback going back to when Bo Schembechler was the RedHawks coach. Dysert started as a freshman, has steadily improving numbers in games with UB and is soon to surpass Ben Roethlisberger’s school record for career passing yards. Dysert’s 10,755 passing yards is 75 shy of Roethlisberger’s mark. He’s big (6-4, 228), strong and will get a look at the NFL level. This season, Dysert’s completed 62 percent for 2,225 yards and 15 TDs against 9 INTs. Career against UB he’s 65 for 98 for 738 yards and eight TDs vs. four INTs with wins the last two times out. He’ll spread the ball around but has a favorite in junior Nick Harwell, whose been back three games since an early-season injury. This is no dink-and-dunk pass attack. They’ll work Andy Cruse on short routes, but four others have at least 12 catches and average 14-plus yards per reception.
3. On Guard. The Bulls just finished a stretch where stopping the run was of paramount importance. They’ve dealt with Beau Blankenship at Ohio, Jordan Lynch at NIU and David Fluellen at Toledo, all of whom rank among the nation’s leaders. Miami’s MO suggests UB will see a different, more pass-oriented approach today, but it’s not a certainty. While the RedHawks have yet to reach 800 yards in team rushing, they emphasized the run in last week’s conquest of Ohio and in earlier games with Akron and UMass. Freshman Jamire Westbrook leads the team with 263 yards.
4. Great Unknown. Joe Licata makes his first career start today, ostensibly because of injury. Is he a better thrower than Alex Zordich? Yes. Is he a better runner? No. A decrease in mobility and the lack of a true running threat at quarterback increases the burden on UB’s offensive line in both the passing and the running game. Bulls have allowed 15 sacks and won’t have the luxury of keeping defense honest with QB runs off zone option reads.
5. Extra Points. Miami leads the series 12-2. … Bulls haven’t started a MAC season 0-5 since 2006. … Junior LB Khalil Mack is 2.5 tackles for losses shy of school career mark of 50.5. … Alex Neutz has joined Naaman Roosevelt as only UB wide receivers with eight or more TDs in a season … Dysert ranks 52nd all-time nationally in career passing yards.
Outlook: RedHawks own the all-time series and have the senior QB. Miami, 27-20.