Breaking down Buffalo

By Patrick Smith

Sports writer Patrick Smith breaks down Buffalo’s stand-out players as they prepare for a battle with NIU at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Buffalo, N.Y. The teams last faced off in 2012 when the Huskies defeated the Bulls 45-3.


Senior quarterback Joe Licata has completed more than 63 percent of his passes through eight games, throwing for 1876 yards. He averages 234.5 passing yards-per-game with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Bulls’ offense averages more than 28 points a game. Licata threw more than 2600 yards in 2014, finishing with 29 touchdowns in just 11 games. He has remained effective although his touchdowns have taken a dip this season. Licata has thrown 70 touchdowns in his three-and-a-half years at the helm for the Bulls and has a chance to crack the 80 mark with 10 more touchdowns this season. Buffalo has failed to win 10 games in all of Licata’s seasons.

Running back

The Bulls have two running backs who have been running effectively this season. Junior Jordan Johnson has 575 rushing yards with seven touchdowns and a 4.7 yard-per-carry average. He has already exceeded his numbers from last season when he only totaled 361 rushing yards and one touchdown. Senior Anthone Taylor isn’t far behind Johnson, running for 549 yards and two touchdowns in the seven games he’s appeared in, and is actually averaging more yards-per-game than Johnson with 78.4. Johnson averaging 71.9. Both backs average nearly 5 yards-per-run, leading a Bulls’ rushing attack that averages 144.9 yards a game. Buffalo runs the ball a lot more often than it passes, relying heavily on the tandem of Johnson and Taylor. The offense has run the ball 296 times compared to 278 passes and have 11 touchdowns on the ground verses 10 through the air.

Wide Receiver

Senior wide receiver Ron Willoughby is the standout receiver for Buffalo although he doesn’t lead the team in receiving. He has 37 receptions, 511 yards and five touchdowns this season. He averages 63.9 yards-per-game and almost 14 yards-per-catch. Senior tight end Matt Weiser is the only player with more catches on the year than Willoughby. Weiser has caught 39 balls for 405 yards and a touchdown. The two have combined for the bulk of the receiving for the Bulls, almost totaling more than 1,000 yards with 76 catches on the season. Willoughby’s numbers are very similar to his totals from a year ago. He picked up 50 receptions for 771 yards and nine touchdowns and is on track to surpass those numbers if he can remain consistent. Weiser has already nearly tripled his stats from a season ago. He caught just 15 balls for 216 yards and four touchdowns in 2014. Expect lots of throws to Willoughby and Weiser whenever Buffalo isn’t running the ball.


Senior linebacker Nick Gilbo is the Bills’ leading tackler this season. He has 73 total tackles, 45 solo and 28 assisted with 3.5 sacks and an interception. He already exceeded his 2014 season when he had 37 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Nine of Gilbo’s tackles have been for-loss, and he has managed to breakup two passes. Junior Brandon Berry is to the side of Gilbo and has had a similar season. He has 72 tackles, good for second on the team, with a sack and a pass breakup. Berry has forced a fumble and also recovered a fumble. He played in just nine games last year, picking up nine tackles and a forced fumble, but has had an explosive season thus far. The combination of Gilbo and Berry has created nightmares for opposing teams. The defense is currently allowing 25 points a game and 404.6 yards-per-game, but the two have made their presences felt every chance they’ve gotten.

Defensive Lineman

Junior defensive lineman Brandon Crawford has stood out for the Bulls defensive-line this season with 22 total tackles, two sacks and two pass deflections. Crawford’s two sacks are good for third on the team, and he ranks sixth in tackles. He has already surpassed his 2014 numbers when he had 19 total tackles and one sack. Much of the defensive load has been placed on the shoulders of the linebackers, but the defensive line has also done an alright job of remaining consistent. The Huskies run the ball quite a bit and have a chance to break free against a Buffalo defense that gives up nearly 160 yards on the ground every game.


Sophomore cornerback Boise Ross is a player to look out for in Buffalo’s secondary. He has 36 tackles, seven solo and nine assisted. He has also intercepted two passes and broken up 16 passes this season. He had an interception with 26 tackles and six pass breakups in 2014. Senior corner Marqus Baker has also been effective for the Bulls this season. He’s currently tied for third on the team in tackles with 47 and has broken up 10 passes. Baker played in just four games in 2014 and has bounced back with a strong season. The combination of Ross and Baker can create many problems for receivers in the secondary. Both players have made big impacts through eight games, contributing with both tackles and pass breakups. Buffalo is still allowing 245.3 passing yards-per-game, but its cornerbacks will have chances at big plays if NIU plays carelessly with the ball.