Football hopes to exceed elevated expectations

Rematch against former No. 1 Wisconsin-Whitewater highlights the seasons schedule for playoff-hopeful Bengals


Buffalo State Sports Information

Quarterback Casey Kacz accounted for 461 yards of total offense and one touchdown in the Bengals’ victory over Brockport on Saturday.

For any football program, there’s a big difference between optimism and expectations.

Last year, the Buffalo State football team entered its first season in the Empire 8 Conference with some optimism surrounding the program. There was a buzz around the team, and a feeling that it might be on the cusp of a comeback to its once-dominant form.

After beating then-No. 1 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and winning their final four Empire 8 contests of the 2012 season, the Bengals are expecting an even more successful campaign in 2013.

“Our expectations are to get into the NCAA playoffs this year, and to go pretty far in the playoffs,” junior running back Rich Pete said.

This may seem like a fairly lofty goal, but Buffalo State players and coaches believe they are in a position to break the program’s long playoff drought and make a run into the postseason for the first time since 1999.

To do that, the Bengals will need to avoid what head coach Jerry Boyes calls a “yo-yo” season, filled with ups and downs.

“We certainly showed what we were capable of doing (last year), but we didn’t maintain it,” Boyes said. “So now its time to play like we know how we’re capable of playing, and to stay at that level of play.”

Part of the team’s confidence stems from the fact that this will be their second year in the conference, so they know what to expect now from other teams.

“Our second year in the conference, I think that will give us a little bit more of an advantage compared to last year,” senior quarterback Casey Kacz said. “As much as you study a team on film, you could see something completely different than what you’ve seen on film, and going against guys, you kind of figure out their tendencies.”

The Bengals return all of their starters at offensive skill positions from a team that went 6-4 (4-3 Empire 8) last season, something that has Kacz excited to get going. He said they have been working out during the offseason, and it will be an easy transition once training camp opens.

“It’s a lot easier when you come into camp because you already have some chemistry and you don’t need to build it,” Kacz said. “The chemistry that we have is so strong already, that coming into camp, we just need to tune it up a little bit and then we should be ready to go.”

One thing the Bengals are looking to correct from last season is consistency at home.

Buffalo State was just 2-3 defending home turf last year, and blew second-half leads in two of its three losses on Coyer Field. The Bengals know that to attain their goal of making the playoffs, they have to be better at keeping their focus at home.

“We have to stay consistent. We can’t be winning, and then let a team come back into the game,” Pete said. “We have to keep our feet on their neck and close out games, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be just fine.”

Some players believe that the momentum from winning their final four contests of the 2012 season will help them build consistency at the beginning of this season.

Wide receiver Ryan Carney trusts that the Bengals put it together at the end of last season and will reap the benefits in 2013.

“Winning our last four games definitely gives us a ton of confidence going into this year,” Carney said. “A lot of the games we lost, we felt like we should have won, and then to pull it together as a team at the end of the year really helps us go forward.”

Boyes agreed, and even went a step further, saying that Buffalo State needs to carry over the momentum gained at the end of last season into the beginning of this year.

“It has to,” he said. “… As a returning group of guys, they have to hit the field running, and not be making mistakes that we made last season, particularly in the early parts. There cannot be any mental mistakes.”

The Bengals will begin their season at Cortland on Sept. 7. The home opener at Coyer Field is Saturday, Sept. 14, against Brockport.

Chris Dierken can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @cdierken.