Nevada football travels to play Buffalo in winnable game
Brian Polian is going back home this weekend.
“I have a very warm place in my heart for Buffalo,” the Nevada Wolf Pack head football coach said this week.
Polian’s Wolf Pack (1-2) will take on the Buffalo Bulls of the Mid-American Conference Saturday, Sept. 26, at 12:30 p.m. at UB Stadium. Polian went to high school in Buffalo (1988-92) at St. Francis High and used to hold the sideline headsets for former Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy during NFL games while his father Bill was the pro personnel director and general manager of the Bills from 1984-92.
“This is my home,” the 40-year-old Polian said. “It will be special for me.”also
The most important part of the weekend for the Wolf Pack, Polian said, is to come home a winner. Polian, now in his third season as Nevada head coach, has just nine victories against Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) teams on his resume.
“We definitely need a win,” Wolf Pack senior defensive end Lenny Jones said. “We want to start a 9-0 win streak going into the (Mountain West) championship game. But you have to start with one win before you can start a streak and this is as good a week as any to get one.”
Buffalo, which has won 12 of its last 14 home games, features quarterback Joe Licata (556 yards, four touchdowns), running back Anthone Taylor (313 yards, two touchdowns) and wide receiver Ron Willoughby 12 catches, 147 yards, one score). All three are seniors.
The Bulls have beaten Albany (51-14) and Florida Atlantic (33-15) and lost to Penn State (27-14). They scored three defensive touchdowns in the win over Florida Atlantic last week. Buffalo is coached by Lance Leipold, who is in his first year after coaching Wisconsin-Whitewater to six Division III national titles in eight years.
The Wolf Pack, which hasn’t even won a half of football since it outscored UC Davis 21-3 in the first half in the season opener on Sept. 3, is also expecting its numbers to improve from here on out, especially on defense. The Wolf Pack gave up an average of 44 points and 552 yards to Arizona and Texas A&M.
“We played good in spurts,” Jones said. “But 44 points will never be good. That’s never acceptable. Until we can get that down we’re not doing a good job.”
The Wolf Pack beat Buffalo in 2004 at Mackay Stadium, 38-13, when current Wolf Pack assistant coach Jim Hofher was the Bulls’ head coach. Hofher was 8-49 as the Bulls’ head coach from 2001-05, when the school was still trying to find its footing in the FBS.
The Wolf Pack is starting a stretch of nine very winnable games. No team in the Mountain West is unbeaten after just three weeks. Polian, though, is concerned about an emotional letdown this week, coming off two games against nationally ranked opponents (Arizona, Texas A&M) and with a game against rival UNLV next week.