Jerry Boyes will pay quite a premium to anyone who can figure out how to get Buffalo State football back to its winning ways.

“If you could tell us how to do that, I’d kiss ya,” Boyes said.

Boyes is now entering his sixth season as head coach after returning to the job in 2009. He coached the team quite successfully from 1986 to 2000, winning at least 70 percent of games every season in ’90s.

So far, he’s been unable to repeat that success in his second stint on the job. He’s 20-20 in the past four seasons.

This year, Boyes hopes the Bengals can break through and reach the level of those 1990s teams. To do so, he believes his team has to focus less on winning and more on doing the little things right each day.

“That’s the No. 1 goal. We want to get back to the successful ways of the 1990s,” Boyes said. “I say ‘successful ways’ and not ‘winning ways’ because if you’re doing all the right things to make yourself successful, the winning will take care of itself.

“There’s a book I saw once called ‘Don’t Sweat the Details.’ Well in football, you have to sweat the details. You have to pay attention to the little things.”

Boyes thought 2013 would be the year for the program to pull itself out of mediocrity. The team had plenty of talent, led by Casey Kacz, the most prolific quarterback in program history. However, the squad was plagued with inconsistency, lost a few close games and finished .500.

“Last year was a little bit of a disappointment to be honest,” Boyes said. “We had a last-second loss to Ithaca, and we lost in double overtime to Alfred. That put a damper on our season.”

Kacz has graduated and his role must be filled. Sophomore Kyle Hoppy of Orchard Park, sophomore Aaron Ertel of Depew and junior Dan Serignese of Port Jefferson are battling for the job.

Through spring practices and the first few days of camp, Boyes said Hoppy held the edge. The 23-year-old isn’t your average sophomore.

He led Orchard Park High School to a state championship in 2008 but turned down a football offer from Bucknell after being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the spring. He spent four seasons bouncing around the minors.

If Hoppy does earn the starting job, he’ll be joined on offense by last year’s leading rusher, Rich Pete (141-767-9), and senior receiver Mike Doherty out of Kenmore East (59-1,029-6). Boyes expects both to be among the more productive offensive players this year.

Boyes counts the line as the strength of the defense but expects a big year from linebacker Shaq Frederick. Defensive backs Mitchell Thomas (Sweet Home) and Jeff McDuffie also both return after strong years.

Doherty and defensive tackle Tawone Williams have been named to the D3 Senior Classic Preseason Super Senior Watchlist presented by the Collegiate Development Football League.

The Bengals will open the season at home Sept. 6 against Cortland.