BUFFALO, NY - If the season opener is any indication, Mason Schreck and Matt Weiser should expect a heavier work load this season. UB's top two tight ends combined for nine catches in Saturday's 51-14 victory over the Albany Great Danes. Last season the pair combined for 25 catches in 12 games. There are a number of weapons on the Bulls offense when it comes to wide receivers and running backs but the tight ends play a key role in offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki's game plans.
"As a tight end, you got to love when the tight ends get the ball and I think that's a testament to Mason(Schreck), mine, our young guys" Weiser said. "I think that's a testament to our hard work, the older guys who were here before us that pushed us. Its an offense that looks to get everybody involved. We've got experienced guys everywhere. As a tight end, sometimes we've got to do the dirty work with the o-line and its fun to be able to go out and catch the passes at the same time. This offense is exciting and it gives us a chance to be able to make some plays."
Schreck, a 6-4, 250 pound junior from Medina, Ohio, led the Bulls in receiving on Saturday with five catches for 62 yards. Both are career highs for Schreck who had 10 receptions for 106 yards in 2014. He also came up with a big catch on a 2nd quarter drive that helped the Bulls pull away from Albany. Leading 17-7, the Bulls faced a 4th and 2 at Albany's 16-yard line and Joe Licata looked for the tight end. Schreck made a nice adjustment on a pass designed to go to the right flat. Schreck had to turn around and go upfield to come down with the ball and tacked on some run after catch yards giving the Bulls 1st and goal at the 2-yard line. A Jordan Johnson touchdown run would put the Bulls up 24-7.
"A quarterback's best friend is a good tight end and we have two of them so I'm pretty lucky" Licata said. "Those are big bodied guys and they can do it all, block, run and catch. They showed great hands today, great route running ability and they're both very smart football players too. They see things that sometimes I struggle to see."
Weiser, a 6-5, 255 pound senior from Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, ended up with four catches for 21 yards. You should expect to hear more about the Bulls top two tight ends as the season plays out. "Its huge. Those are two excellent football players and as you see, we're going to continue to work ways to use both of them" said head coach Lance Leipold. "They're athletic tight ends, they're able to be physical blockers but they have excellent hands and they can stretch the field. Really, to me, its an offensive coordinator's dream that you can do a lot of different things and use them in different ways and I think we'll continue to find many ways to use them."
The ability of the tight ends is one of the factors in UB having a very diverse offense. There is no shortage of weapons in this group as was the case in the opening day triumph. As far as the passing game goes, Licata completed 20 passes to 8 different targets. In addition to the two tight ends, Licata hit on throws to five different wide receivers and one running back. "The defense gives us some looks and we have answers to all those looks" Licata said. "Thats what makes this offense so powerful I think. There's really no such things as a bad look from a defense. Coach Kotelnicki and Coach Leipold together, they're brilliant men and they're great teachers. They've done a great job of teaching me and the other quarterbacks where to go with the ball in certain situations. I'm very comfortable in this offense and I think we can do a lot of great things."
With so many players knowing they can make a contribution, you might wonder if Licata's job includes trying to make sure everyone stays happy by being involved but its not something the Bulls quarterback worries about. "Its not about keeping them happy. Its about putting the defense in bad spots. I've never walked up to the line and say Ron's my roommate so I'm going to throw it to him on this one. I just take what the defense gives us and luckily we have guys that can make plays at every position so it is a great luxury for me."
UB's array of weapons isn't limited to the passing game. The Bulls are deep when it comes to the backfield too. The group is led by Anthone Taylor who recorded his 10th career 100-yard rushing game in the opener. When Taylor needs a rest, junior Jordan Johnson enters the game. The Sweet Home High School product had 69 yards on 11 carries against Albany. The coaches are also excited about the potential for true freshman Johnathan Hawkins who got a scholarship offer from Florida State in the spring of his junior year at Mill Creek High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Hawkins made his collegiate debut in the opener and rushed for 37 yards on 10 carries.
"Coach K(Andy Kotelnicki) our coordinator says all the time 'we're a balanced attack" Weiser said. "We will run the ball and we will throw the ball. We will do whatever we have to do to move the ball but it all comes back to being balanced because then the defense has no clue what we're going to do. They can't set up just to have to stop our run game in Ant(Anthone Taylor) and JJ(Jordan Johnson). They can't just drop back in zone to stop Ron(Willoughby) and Marcus(McGill), Collin(Lisa) and Malcolm Robinson and Jacob Martinez. There are so many weapons and we're so balanced that a defense has to prepare for so many things because of how balanced our offensive attack is."
The Bulls showed off their balance in the win over the Great Danes. The ground game produced 212 yards, four touchdowns and 11 first downs. The passing attack ended up with 255 yards, two touchdowns and 10 first downs.
There were a number of Bulls who made their UB debut on Saturday. For wide receiver Collin Lisa it wasn't his first college game though. Lisa transferred from Alabama-Birmingham when the school decided to drop the football program. The 5-10, 180 pound sophomore receiver had three catches for 56 yards. His 46 yard catch early in the 3rd quarter set up UB for its 5th touchdown of the game. Lisa is also the number one punt returner and returned a pair of punts for 23 yards.
Freshman kicker Adam Mitcheson booted his first collegiate field goal, connecting from 40-yards. He was 6 of 7 on PAT's.
True Freshman Brandon Stanback got the start at safety for the Bulls. The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native had five tackles and a fumble recovery.
Home Sweet Home: UB is 8-2 in the last 10 home openers. Joe Licata is 12-2 as a starter at UB Stadium.
Joe Knows Football: Licata has thrown a touchdown pass in 13 straight games and in 27 of his 29 career starts.
Joe Knows Clutch: Licata was 5-6 for 46 yards on 3rd down passes. Three of the completions were for a first down. Licata also converted a 4th and 2 pass for 14-yards to Mason Schreck.
Ant Man: Anthone Taylor is now 94 yards shy of 2,000 rushing yards in his UB career. He'd be the 6th running back in school history to reach that level and just the 3rd in the FBS era, joining James Starks and Branden Oliver.
Bulls in NFL: Kristjan Sokoli has earned a spot on the roster of the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks. He joins four other Bulls currently in the NFL. Khalil Mack(Oakland), Starks(Green Bay), Oliver(San Diego) and Jacob Schum(Tampa Bay).