BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ The UConn Huskies are hoping their first road trip will be the cure for a winless start to their season. The Buffalo Bulls are looking to home field as their path to the postseason.
The Bulls (1-2) are a veteran-laden team coming off a bye week that is looking to end a four-year bowl drought. Buffalo won its home opener against FCS program Stony Brook and wants to protect its turf again.
“We talked about our team’s mentality and its focus being a bowl-eligible team, and if you take care of every game at home and you take care of at least 50 percent on the road, you’re going to be right where you want to be down the stretch,” Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn said. “This one’s a big one in our opinion.”
Buffalo will be UConn’s (0-3) first non-undefeated opponent this season. Towson, Maryland and Michigan are a combined 12-0 through four weeks.
Coach Paul Pasqualoni’s Huskies are hitting the road as some are calling for a regime change. Pasqualoni is 10-17 through two-plus seasons at UConn.
“The goal for us to get ready is to improve this week. That’s the real focus,” Pasqualoni said. “It’s about us. It’s about us getting better.”
The Huskies hope to get their offense on track against a Bulls defense that has allowed 133 points in three games and an offense averaging 323 yards per game _ 110th of 123 teams.
Buffalo has struggled on the ground, averaging just 2.4 yards per run. The team will have senior running back Branden “Bo” Oliver back. He has run for 2,619 yards and 19 touchdowns in his career but didn’t play in his team’s Sept. 14 win over Stony Brook.
“It’s an opportunity for us to really establish ourselves as being more mentally locked in, how to physically get after people in the run game,” Quinn said. “We have to continue building on that, and we’re going to put a great deal of emphasis on that.”
Five things to know about UConn-Buffalo:
NO-RUSH HUSKIES: UConn ranks last in the FBS in yards rushing with 156 on a mere 1.8 yards per carry. The team saw some signs of life against Michigan when starting running back Lyle McCombs ran for 38 yards on 8 carries.
“We’re going to keep working hard,” McCombs said. “Hopefully this running game explodes the way it should for the games to come.”
McCombs ran for 97 of UConn’s 135 yards against Buffalo in 2012.
HOMECOMING OF SORTS: UConn athletic director Warde Manuel held the same post at Buffalo and hired current Bulls head coach Jeff Quinn. Manuel skippered the Bulls program to its only bowl appearance when Buffalo earned a trip to the International Bowl in 2009. Its opponent? UConn, which won 38-20.
MACK ATTACK: Buffalo senior linebacker Khalil Mack is within range of several NCAA FCS records. His 60.5 career tackles for loss are tied for eighth, and 14.5 shy of Jason Babin’s record, set in 2003. Mack has also forced 11 fumbles, good for ninth in NCAA history. He is three behind five players tied for the record.
SMALL BALL: UConn linebacker Yawin Smallwood has racked up 43 tackles, 14 solo, and a sack through three games.
“His football instincts are unreal,” safety Ty-Meer Brown said. “He’s always around the ball. He recognizes things on the field before a lot of other players. That’s what separates him from other players.”
SO CLOSE: The Bulls have struggled against BCS teams in their history and UConn is no exception. The Huskies are 16-4 in the series and haven’t lost to the Bulls since 2001, but Buffalo missed prime chances to upend the Huskies the past two seasons. Buffalo held UConn to 17 points in each game, but lost 17-3 on the road in 2011 and 24-17 at home in 2012.
“It’s not frustrating,” Buffalo safety Okoye Houston said. “You just know that the difference between winning and losing is a couple of plays. We know we’re close to that milestone of beating them.”
Kickoff between the Bulls and Huskies is at 3:30 p.m. EST.
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