Bison Football Hits Road for First Time in 2006, Battles No. 7 Richmond
Sept. 19, 2006
Saturday in Richmond the Bison will have a game of firsts -- first road game, first day game and first game on grass. Bucknell will also try to become the first team to score a meaningful point against the seventh-ranked Spiders this season. Richmond, the defending Atlantic 10 champion, has outscored its first two opponents (Duke and VMI) by a combined margin of 71-7, with the only score against it coming by VMI in a 51-0 game last week. Spirits are also high at Bucknell following last week's 20-5 victory over Cornell. The Bison are now 2-1 for the third time in coach Tim Landis' four seasons at Bucknell.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE BISON
THE OFFENSE: After suffering a shutout against Lafayette on Sept. 9, Bucknell bounced back quickly with a 17-point first quarter in last week's 20-5 win over Cornell. The Bison are averaging a Patriot League-best 255.7 rushing yards per game, and they are second in the league in total offense at 327.7 yards per game.
UNDER CENTER: Navy transfer Andrew Lair has started all three games at quarterback and seems to be growing more comfortable with the offense each week. Last week against Cornell he ran for 77 yards and a TD and completed 5 of 7 passes for 99 yards. Lair has completed 12 of 24 attempts on the year and has not thrown an interception. Junior Terrance Wilson, one of the heroes of the opening-night overtime win over Duquesne, is a capable backup.
BACKS & RECEIVERS: Bucknell's slotbacks continue to run effectively. Senior Peter Kaufman had a big 41-yard TD last week, and the trio of Kaufman, junior Roosevelt Davis and freshman Rashod Bumpers has combined for 307 yards and a stellar 7.9 average per carry. Despite the loss of up-and-coming freshman Paul Forcellini to injury, the fullback position is well-armed with veterans Josh DeStefano and Kevin Mullen sharing the load. Last week those two produced a combined 93 rushing yards against Cornell's vaunted rush defense. Sophomore Alex Odenbach leads all receivers with five catches. He made a career-high three grabs last week, including an acrobatic leaping catch for a 26-yard gain.
THE O-LINE: This is Bucknell's most veteran position group, with all five starters and the two top reserves either juniors or seniors with game experience. The regular lineup consists of co-captain Stefan Niemczyk (LG) starting alongside Chad Glasser (LT), Joel Hoffer (C), Jonathan Grainger (RG) and Michael Anthony (RT). Senior Michael Boccella, a starter in eight games last season, also plays at the tackle spots.
THE DEFENSE: Bucknell's young defense has yielded a league-high 479.3 yards per game thus far, but the unit made a bit of a breakthrough last week when it kept Cornell out of the end zone in a 20-5 win. It was the first time the Bison defense did not allow a touchdown since 2002.
DEFENSIVE FRONT: The team's biggest question mark entering the season, the new-look defensive line, featuring three first-year starters has made some big plays in the first three games but is still looking for improvement, particularly against the run, when the Bison are allowing 212.0 yards per game. The heart and soul of the Bucknell defense is the linebacker unit, led by senior co-captain Dorian Petersen and junior Ryan Slater. Petersen had one of the best games by a Bison defensive player in quite some time last week, when he delivered a number of punishing hits among his 11 tackles and changed the game with a jarring hit that forced a fumble on the opening kickoff. Petersen, Slater and freshman LB Sam Nana-Sinkam combined for 27 tackles against Cornell and rank 1-2-3 on the team with 36, 28 and 27 hits, respectively, through three games.
DEFENSIVE SECONDARY: Landis and defensive coordinator Jared Backus did some shuffling in the secondary last week, moving safety Matt Palermo to cornerback and inserting promising freshman safety Brigham Farrand into the starting lineup for the first time. Farrand responded well, tying Petersen for game-high honors with 11 tackles, and he intercepted a pass on the Bucknell 1-yard line and also recovered a fumble. Senior CB David Frisbey continues to play well. He recovered the fumble on the opening kickoff and also had six tackles last week.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Bucknell continues to shine in all facets of the special teams (see p. 3 for more on the special teams). P Phil Azarik is this week's Patriot League Special Teams Player of the Week after averaging 49.3 yards on three punts against Cornell. K Will Carney kicked two field goals, including a 40-yarder, and opponents are averaging only 13.1 yards on his kickoffs. The Bison had not returned a punt all season until last week, when Nolan Applegate got four chances totaling 23 yards. Freshman Rashod Bumpers took over as the primary kickoff returner in week two and is averaging 22.8 yards per attempt.
BISON FOOTBALL NOTES & NOTABLES:
With a victory over Richmond, Bucknell would ...
LAST WEEK: One week after being shut out at home for the first time in 10 years, Bucknell bounced back in strong fashion last Saturday with a 20-5 victory over Cornell.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Right from the very first play of the night, Bucknell's defense set the tone in the victory over Cornell. After managing only one takeaway in the first two games, the Bison forced four turnovers, including a fumble on the opening kickoff. The Big Red did manage 436 yards of offense, but LB Doria n Petersen forced two fumbles and DB Brigham Farrand and LB Ryan Slater both had interceptions inside the Bucknell 5-yard line. It was the first time in four seasons that the Bison defense did not allow a touchdown. The last time was also against Cornell in a 14-3 win in on Sept. 21, 2002.
BISON TRIO HONORED BY PATRIOT LEAGUE: Following the victory over Cornell, Bucknell claimed three of the four Patriot League weekly awards on Monday. Senior LB Dorian Petersen was named the Defensive Player of the Week after collecting 11 tackles and forcing the two fumbles. Freshman DB Brigham Farrand was named Rookie of the Week following his first collegiate start, when he made 11 tackles, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble. Sophomore P Phil Azarik was rewarded for an outstanding day with Special Teams Player of the Week honors. He was not needed until the second half, but he helped keep the field position battle in Bucknell's favor by averaging 49.3 yards on three attempts, including a 56-yarder.
MORE FROM LAST WEEK: RB Peter Kaufman scored his first TD of the season on a 41-yard run ... it was Kaufman's longest run since a 61-yard TD scamper against Lafayette in 2004 ... QB Andrew Lair had a career-high 176 total yards (77 rushing, 99 passing) ... he completed his first five passes before finishing 5-for-7 ... Cornell's Peter Zell went 1-for-2 on field goal attempts, making Bison opponents 2-for-7 on the season ... the Bison have now won four straight at home against Cornell.
TRULY "SPECIAL" TEAMS: Through three games Bucknell's special teams have been excellent across the board. Some highlights:
WELCOME TO BUCKNELL: The Orange & Blue have received contributions from a number of newcomers thus far. Among the notable performances:
LANDIS RETURNS: Bison head coach Tim Landis has ties to the Richmond area, as he was a star quarterback and pitcher at Randolph-Macon College in nearby Ashland, Va. Landis, a 1986 Randolph-Macon grad, was inducted into that school's Hall of Fame in 2000 and received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2005. His first collegiate coaching opportunity came as wide receivers coach there in 1986.
WELCOME HOME: Bucknell has three players on its roster from the state of Virginia, including sophomore RB Kadero Watson, who hails from Richmond (Monacan H.S.). Backup P/K Matt DeMartino is from McLean (Langley H.S.), and freshman LB Greg Jones is from Springfield (Lee H.S.).
TACKLING RANKED FOES: Bucknell defeated a top-25 opponent in each of Tim Landis' first two seasons at Bucknell. In 2003, the Bison knocked off 14th-ranked Fordham 31-10 in the Bronx, and in 2004, they routed 22nd-ranked Colgate 42-7 at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. Bucknell is 2-6 against ranked foes under Landis.
NO YELLOW: Bucknell is currently the least-penalized team in the Patriot League. The Bison have been penalized only 16 times and are averaging 43.3 yards in penalties per game, 27th-best in I-AA.
THE Jim Reid CONNECTION: Jim Reid, who served as Bucknell's defensive line coach last season, was Richmond's head coach from 1995 to 2003 and won two Atlantic 10 titles there. In fact, he was the Spiders' coach the last time Bucknell and Richmond met in 2000. Reid is now the head coach at VMI, which lost to Richmond 58-7 last week.
JV RECAP: Last Sunday the Bison junior varsity squad fell 39-14 to a Milford Academy team loaded with future Division I-A players. Bucknell's points came on a 14-yard pass from QB Marcello Trigg to RB A.J. Kizekai, and on a 5-yard run by Trigg. The freshman quarterback was the team's leading rusher with 33 yards on nine carries, and he completed 8 of 13 passes for 124 yards. Kizekai caught four passes for 75 yards. Freshman LB Greg Jones led the team with 10 tackles. Sophomore LB Chris Hayes forced a fumble, while freshman DB Jon Salem blocked an extra point.
CONOVER SIGNED TO TITANS PRACTICE SQUAD: Former Bucknell All-America defensive end Sean Conover, a 2006 graduate, was signed to the Tennessee Titans' practice squad last month. Conover was initially signed as an undrafted free agent by the Titans in May, and he saw significant playing time in all four of the team's preseason games. In those four games he totalled seven tackles, including a sack, against Green Bay last week. He was one of the Titans' final roster cuts as the team had to get to the NFL-mandated 53-player limit, but he was then one of seven players re-signed to the practice squad.
PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: Bucknell over the summer was picked sixth in a preseason poll of Patriot League head coaches and sports information directors. Colgate (68 points) was picked to win the conference, followed by Lafayette (61), Lehigh (57), Holy Cross (35), Fordham (33), Bucknell (27) and Georgetown (13).
NUMBER CHANGES: A handful of Bucknell players have changed uniform numbers since the media guide was published. The new numbers: DB Eric Baxter (43), WR Cale Cadman (16), WR Trevor Dombeck (82), TE Stephen Edwards (84), RB Paul Forcellini (5), LB Robert Firman (12) and LB Greg Jones (44).
BIRTHDAY BOY: Bucknell freshman DB Brigham Farrand celebrates his 19th birthday on Sunday.
A RARE DOWN SEASON: Last year's losing season was certainly a rare sight in Lewisburg in recent years. Bucknell has finished .500 or better in 9 of the last 11 seasons, including a 7-4 campaign in 2004.
IN THE CLASSROOM: The Bison boasted a league-high 24 members of the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll last season. In the spring 2006 semester, the Bucknell football players combined for a solid 3.0 grade-point average, the sixth straight semester the team has earned a 3.0 or better.
LOOKING AHEAD: Next week the Bison make their first-ever trip to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to face Marist. Last season in Lewisburg Bucknell defeated Marist 27-7 behind 268 rushing yards and three touchdowns from cornerback-turned-quarterback Dante Ross. The Red Foxes are 1-2 this season with a victory over Sacred Heart, and they host another Patriot League foe in Holy Cross this week.