Saturday, January 3, 2009

International Bowl: Connecticut vs. Buffalo


January 3, 2006 * 12:00 * ESPN

The Buffalo Bulls will have their hands full defending Connecticut’s rushing attack led by the nation's leading rusher Donald Brown. The junior finished the regular seasons with 1,822 yards and 17 touchdowns. Brown is a big play back who averaged 5.4 yards per carry and has been dominant throughout most of the season, finishing ten games with 100+ yards. Expect him to get his yards against Buffalo’s 83rd ranked rush defense. A key in the game will be the young defense’s ability to limit big plays. Sophomore linebacker Justin Winters leads the team in tackles; he will play a major role in containing the Huskies running game.

Connecticut has struggled down the stretch losing three of there last four (only win at Syracuse). A big part of it has been the offense and an inefficient passing game. Tyler Lorenzen was successful completing most of his passes and limiting his turnovers, but since coming back from his injury he hasn’t looked good. In his last game versus Pittsburgh he threw two interceptions and his completion percentage was a career low 22.2 percent. When he is completely healthy Lorenzen is confident, efficient and spreads the ball around.

Unlike Connecticut, Buffalo finished the season strong winning six of there last seven – including an upset over previously undefeated Ball St. in the MAC Championship Fame. Their offense which is ranked 31st in the nation in scoring has been clicking – scoring at least 40 points in three of their last four games. Quarterback Drew Willy has thrown for at least 200 yards in his last five games including a 297-yard performance at Bowling Green. He has been on a roll in the second half of the season having thrown 13 touchdown passes to only one interception. Wide Receiver Naaman Roosevelt has emerged as the big play threat during Buffalo’s winning streak. He has put up five straight games with at least 100 yards and in is on a steak of seven games with a touchdown. He leads the team with 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns on 96 receptions. Keep an eye out for running back James Starks who is a big play back averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He can break out for a 50-yard plus run at any point in the game (four times this season) and is a scoring threat. The Buffalo offense has been clicking in the second half of they season and they possess the players to put up points against the Big East Goliath.

The Huskies have a top rush defense ranked 20th in the country allowing only 116.4 yards per game on the ground. Senior Darius Butler is a shut down corner; defending Roosevelt will be a key match up in the game. Defensive end Cody Brown an effective pass rusher leading the team with nine sacks. Also, watch out for Connecticut sophomore cornerback Jasper Howard, who has returned one of his four interceptions for a touchdown. He is the conference leader in punt returns and has taken one back for a touchdown this season.

CFI Prediction: UConn 33, Buffalo 21

Photo Credit: UConn Athletic Communications