Football: Vick returns to starting role for “must-win” #MACtion

After returning to action in Ohio’s 42-21 loss to Western Michigan, Derrius Vick will be starting behind center on Wednesday night for the first time since Sept. 20 against Idaho. But Ohio has no time for Vick, its junior quarterback, to become reacclimated. The Bobcats (4-5, 2-3 MAC) know that if they don’t win their three remaining games, they may miss bowl season for the first time since 2008.

“It’s the most important game of the year,” Ohio wide receiver Landon Smith said. “If we don’t win this one, we have no momentum going into these last few games and we really don’t have a shot at a bowl.”

Victor E. Bull himself.  (Chad Cooper, flickr)

Victor E. Bull himself.
Photo by Chad Cooper, flickr.

Fortunately for the Green & White, they’ll face an opponent in the MAC basement for the first time since Kent State. That opponent comes in the form of the Buffalo Bulls.

Buffalo has allowed an average of just over 33 points per game this season. For a struggling Bobcat offense, Wednesday night’s game could be just what the doctor ordered. The Bulls enter Wednesday’s game in the midst of a three-game losing streak, most recently falling 20-14 to Central Michigan.

Buffalo is led on offense by Joe Licata. Licata, a junior quarterback, has completed 64.6 percent of his passes this season and has a touchdown to interception ratio of 20:9.

Licata is complemented in the backfield by Ohio native Anthone Taylor. Taylor, who played his high school ball with Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, has rushed for 951 yards, good for 17th best in the FBS, and nine touchdowns this season.

Wednesday nights game will begin the #MACtion part of the Bobcats’ schedule. They will play two Tuesday night games following their game vs. Buffalo to conclude the regular season.

Ohio is coming off an 11-day break from game action. Ohio coach Frank Solich says the break let his players regain health.

“I think it will give guys a chance to heal up,” Solich said. “Some of them aren’t there yet. The few days that we’ve had off haven’t made a huge difference at this point.”

About the Opponent: Buffalo Bulls (3-5, 1-3 MAC)

Location: Buffalo, New York

Established: 1846

Colors: Blue and White

Mascot: Victor E. Bull

Notable Alumni: owner of the NHL’s Boston Bruins Jeremy Jacobs, president and CEO of New Era Caps Pete Augustine, CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer and NPR personality Terry Gross

Players in the NFL: Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack, San Diego Chargers running back Branden Oliver, Chicago Bears defensive end Trevor Scott, Green Bay Packers running back James Starks and New York Jets defensive back Josh Thomas

Previous Bobcat Game: 30-3 Bobcat loss at University at Buffalo Stadium — Nov. 5, 2013

Current Matchup: 8 p.m. Wednesday — Peden Stadium

(Photo by Seth Austin)

Ohio quarterback Derrius Vick drops back to pass. Photo by Seth Austin.

Bobcats to Watch

Offense: QB Derrius Vick – It’ll be interesting to see if Vick’s legs are back in form. He attempted a few runs in the loss to Western Michigan with a long of eight yards, but when Vick was healthy earlier this season, he was at times the best ground option on the Ohio offense. Health will also impact Vick’s footwork in the pocket.

Defense: LB Quentin Poling – The freshman linebacker has cooled down since his hot start in the first half of the season. Poling will likely be all around the ball when Anthone Taylor carries the ball. It’s also his first game on national TV, if that counts for anything.

Panthers to Watch

Offense:  WR Ron Willoughby – He’s Licata’s top target recently. Willoughby has 193 receiving yards in the past two games. He has big play capability and Ohio’s secondary has struggled with big plays all season.

Defense: DB Adam Redden – After looking at his stat line, one would be led to believe that Redden plays linebacker or defensive end, but the junior plays as a some kind of corner/linebacker hybrid. Redden leads the Bulls defense with 41 solo tackles, 12 tackles for loss, five sacks and three forced fumbles. See for yourselves: >http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:11761681 . Ohio has struggled to protect its signal callers all season long, regardless of who’s been taking the snaps. If they’re smart , they’ll have an eye on Redden.

Prediction

Ohio 31, Buffalo 24 – Derrius Vick rekindles the connection he had with Landon Smith, maybe finds Cochran for a long bomb and forces the Bulls’ defense to respect the pass, allowing the ‘Cats run game more lanes to run through. Buffalo makes it interesting in the fourth, but can’t come through in the end.

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