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Bulls and Bobcats square off in MAC affair

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Updated: 11/05/2013 12:45 am

Buffalo, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The Buffalo Bulls will try to protect their first place standing in the Mid-American Conference's East Division as they host the Ohio University Bobcats at UB Stadium on Tuesday.

Coach Frank Solich's Bobcats bounced back from their surprising 26-23 loss to Central Michigan with lopsided victories over Eastern Michigan (56-28) and Miami-Ohio (41-16) to improve to 3-1 in the MAC standings and 6-2 overall. Ohio is tied with Bowling Green for second place in the East Division standings as they both trail the 4-0 Bulls by a single game heading into Tuesday. While a win would propel the Bobcats into first place, a loss would likely drop them to a third place standing as the Falcons have a much more manageable week 11 matchup against the winless Miami-Ohio RedHawks.

The Bulls have been the surprise team in the conference this season as they notched their sixth consecutive victory on Oct. 26 with a 41-21 rout of Kent State. Although Buffalo is still perfect in MAC play so far, it has yet to face a worthy adversary. The four league rivals the Bulls have defeated have a combined total of two conference victories. Coach Jeff Quinn's team has been forcing takeaways while limiting its own miscues all season long to rank second among FBS schools in turnover margin (1.9).

This will be the 20th matchup in history between Ohio and Buffalo in the rivalry that dates back to the 1949 campaign. The Bobcats improved to 12-7 all-time versus the Bulls last season with a 38-31 win at Peden Stadium.

Ohio has one of the most complete teams in the MAC this season as it ranks third among the 13-team league in scoring offense with an average of 33.6 points per game and has held its opposition to a mere average of 21.8 ppg to rank second in scoring defense. Ohio has scored at least 34 points in five of its last six outings, including 99 total points in its past two away games.

The Bobcats are led by quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who has completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,029 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions. The signal caller had a strong showing versus Miami in his last appearance, throwing for 306 yards and three touchdowns in the rout of the RedHawks.

Tettleton's consistently targets Donte Foster, who reeled in all three of the senior's touchdown passes in the win over Miami. Foster finished the contest with eight catches for 122 yards and his three grabs for scores gave him a career total of 20 touchdown receptions, which is the most in program history. He enters the week ranked third in the conference in receiving with 761 yards on 55 catches. Foster is not the only weapon the aerial attack as Chase Cochran provides the Bobcats with a deep threat. In 24 career games, Cochran has recorded 10 catches that have gone for 40 yards or more.

Ohio has the ability to hurt its opposition on the ground as well due to the running back tandem of Beau Blankenship (550 yards) and Ryan Boykin (364 yards). Blankenship is coming off of his best performance of the season as he racked up 172 yards on 20 carries to surpass the century mark for the 11th time in his career.

The Bobcats' defensive unit has been successful due to its consistent pressure on opposing passers. They rank second nationally in sacks with 28 after recording seven quarterback takedowns versus the RedHawks. Ohio has held its opposition to only 375 yards of total offense per game, which is the second lowest total in the conference.

The Bobcats' aggressive pass rush has been unstoppable this season due to the impressive campaign of freshman defensive lineman Tarell Basham, who leads all MAC freshmen with six sacks. The rookie lineman needs just three sacks to tie the program's single-season record. Josh Kristoff is Ohio's leading tackler with 50 total stops.

Ohio has only allowed seven rushing TDs on the campaign, which is the lowest among MAC schools. It may have trouble preventing the Bulls from achieving a rushing score as Branden Oliver has been unstoppable as of late. The senior tailback recently set a school-record with 216 yards in the team's 32-3 rout of UMass. Oliver continued to dominate versus Kent State as he tallied 185 yards and a career-high four TDs on 31 attempts. A true workhorse, Oliver is the school's all-time leading rusher (3,388) and is averaging 124.9 yards per game on 4.9 yards per carry this year. He is responsible for nine of the team's 14 rushing scores to date.

Buffalo's offense has already equaled its 2012 total of touchdowns with 32. The Bulls have benefited from hot starts, which has helped them outscore their opponents, 51-3, in the first quarter over the course of their current six- game winning streak.

Joe Licata is making a name for himself as one of the top field generals in the league. He has gone 9-3 as a starter in his career with two of the losses coming courtesy of nationally ranked programs in Ohio State and Baylor. Licata has completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,569 yards, with 14 touchdowns. The sophomore has not been picked off in MAC play this season and he and NIU's Jordan Lynch are the only two quarterbacks in the league with a passing touchdown in every game so far.

Alex Neutz has been the team's primary target in the passing game, leading the way in receptions (39), receiving yards (628) and TD catches (seven). He needs just two more touchdown receptions to tie the program record held by Naaman Roosevelt (28).

The Buffalo defense held its opponents to 14 points or less in four straight games before surrendering 21 to KSU its last time out. On the year, the Bulls are allowing 22.9 ppg, with foes averaging 380.2 yards per outing. They lead the MAC in rushing defense with an allowance of just 141.2 ypg.

All-American candidate Khalil Mack has been sensational for Buffalo as the leader of the defense. The senior linebacker was honored as the MAC East Division Player of the Week for his performance against KSU as he tied for the game high with 10 tackles, with a sack and an interception. His sack in the contest gave him 25 for his career, making him the school's all-time leader in that category.

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