The University at Buffalo didn’t have any live special teams play during Saturday’s annual Blue & White Game but senior Branden Oliver, the Bulls top tailback, fielded punts.
The 5-foot-8, 202-pound Oliver will field punts next season in part to jump start the return game, but also to enhance his pro prospects. No returns took place and all punts were fair-caught as Oliver and Devin Campbell took turns fielding punts for both teams.
A windy, cold afternoon at UB Stadium was a good time to break Oliver in as a returner. In the second quarter Oliver, the Blue team tailback, fumbled a punt as part of the White team, giving the Blue team great field position and eventually led to the first touchdown of the game.
“It wasn’t on purpose, and I didn’t know it was going to happen like that,” Oliver said, laughing. “To tell you the truth, I have to get used to the wind up here, this is my first year doing it so I have to get used to that.”
Kicker Patrick Clarke connected on 2 of 3 field goals. After missing a 41-yarder in the second quarter, he was good from 20 and 28 yards in the fourth. Punter Tyler Grassman, who punted for both teams, averaged 42.6 yards on 14 punts, including a game-long 60-yarder. Brian Orzechowski, a junior from Lockport, punted three times for an average of 39.5 yards.
The defense showed flashes of what could potentially be one of the best defenses in the Mid-American Conference.
The Blue team, which featured most of the first team starting offense, led 7-0 at the half and was held to just 320 yards of total offense for the game. For Khalil Mack, one of the leaders on the White team, it wasn’t good enough.
“I can’t say that I’m happy, you can’t be satisfied playing this game and you always want to get better,” said Mack, who finished with three tackles, a forced fumble and a hurry. “There are certain things that we can improve on but we did a solid job as a group.”
White safety Adam Redden (St. Francis) led both teams in tackles with 6.5 and a tackle for a loss, while linemen Dalton Barksdale and Max Perisse paced the Blue team with four tackles. Linebacker John Aubel finished with two sacks and Beau Bachtelle one. Aubel, Bachtelle, Redden, Khalil Mack, Jake Stockman and Kendall Patterson each had tackles for losses. The White team was credited with four breakups while Blue recorded three.
“They really came out with something to prove and I really enjoyed watching the way they handled themselves on the field,” Quinn said. “They pursued to the ball very well and wrapped up well. I was really pleased with that side of the football in the first half.
Sophomore Tony Daniel and redshirt freshman Collin Michael battled it out for the third spot at quarterback behind Joe Licata and Alex Zordich and both struggled on Saturday.
Daniel was 3 of 12 for 22 yards while Michael was 2 of 6 for 17 yards. Each was sacked twice.
Quinn said the team will forgo the rotating captain system in favor of returning to four captains for the 2013 season. The players will be determined before the start of the season. The captains on Saturday for the Blue team were Oliver, Fred Lee, Jasen Carlsen and Alex Neutz and for the White were Mack, Colby Way, Beau Bachtelle and Najja Johnson.
Way, a senior defensive end, was named the 1958 Lambert Cup Team Scholarship Award winner at Saturday morning’s Champions Breakfast. … Alex Dennison, Andre Davis, Jake Pickett, John Kling, Ron Willoughby, Albert McCoy and James Potts all sat out the spring game because of injuries. … Players report for training camp Aug. 4 and open the season at Ohio State Aug. 31.