When Jeff Quinn took the job at the University at Buffalo, Scott Pilkey pulled him aside to make a pitch for Williamsville South junior quarterback Joe Licata.
“Hey,” said Pilkey, UB’s director of high school relations. “You need to know about who this kid is.”
So Quinn visited Williamsville South to find out more about, “Who’s this Joe Licata guy?”
“It was the best move I’ve made and I’ve made a lot of good decisions in my life — some people may not agree with that - but I know [Licata] and a lot of players here recognize that,” Quinn said.
It’s hard to argue with Quinn now that Licata is his starting quarterback. The redshirt freshman makes his third start on Saturday when UB (3-7, 2-4 Mid-American Conference), the winner of back-to-back games, travels to Massachusetts (1-9, 1-5) for a game at Gillette Stadium.
“As a competitor, you always want the ball in your hands,” Licata said. “I’m ready for any challenge coach Quinn has for me.”
The Bulls’ victories over Miami (Ohio) and Western Michigan coincide with Licata’s two starts under center. Licata is 34 of 57 for 412 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the two wins. Licata was Alex Zordich’s backup for the first eight games until Zordich suffered a rib injury in the loss to Toledo.
“What I’ve seen in Joe these last two weeks has certainly proven to show that he’s been prepared and he’s ready to go,” Quinn said. “He’s managed it, he’s very accurate with his throws, he’s got a lot of clarity of thinking and that just shows his maturity and that’s what you love to see.”
He’s played the last two weeks in front of his family, friends and coaches — including Williamsville South football coach Kraig Kurzanski and former boys basketball coach Al Monaco.
“It’s been awesome, especially winning,” Licata said. “Coming off the field, seeing my dad and mom there and my three sisters, it’s been awesome. I go over to hug them after the game. You have a guy like Coach Kurzanski waiting on the sideline for me, Coach Monaco waiting on the sideline for me. All those guys are there supporting me and it’s been awesome.”
Licata said the game is beginning to slow down for him, something that generally doesn’t occur for a quarterback until he’s appeared in several games.
“With experience comes more calmness and clarity,” Licata said. “The game starts to slow down and I’m looking forward in the future as the game keeps slowing down for me and things are going to open up a lot for me, I think.”
And, perhaps, Licata and the Bulls will have more success at Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium than a certain team from Orchard Park.
“It will definitely be a cool atmosphere to play there,” Licata said. “I’ve been watching Bills games there for a while and unfortunately they’ve never been able to win there. We’re going to try to be the first Buffalo team to win there. Tom Brady is my favorite player so it will be cool to be on the same field where he plays.”
Tailbacks Bo Oliver (ankle) and backup Devin Campbell (back) are day-to-day but both are practicing.
“They felt a lot better [Monday] than they did Saturday and Sunday,” Quinn said. “That’s always good. It’s just tough to make a call today based on where they’re at for Saturday but we hope to have both of them back and we’ll be prepared to go forward if we don’t have their services or their services are a bit limited.”
If Oliver or Campbell can’t play or are limited junior Brandon Murie (Iroquois) will start and will be backed up by Alex Dennison.