Football: Buffalo QB awaits challenge of facing Buckeyes

By THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH  • 
High Contrast Normal Version
Enlarge Image
Stephan Savoia | Associated Press
Joe Licata, now a sophomore, took over as Buffalo’s starter in November. His Bulls are big underdogs against Ohio State on Saturday.

It took nine weeks, but Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn finally found the man he wants under center.

After the Bulls stumbled to a 1-7 start in 2012, Quinn went with redshirt freshman Joe Licata as the starter at quarterback heading into a Nov. 3 game against Miami University.

The move paid dividends. Licata, replacing injured Alex Zordich, threw two touchdown passes in a 27-24 victory over the RedHawks.

“He took advantage of that opportunity,” Quinn said during a conference call yesterday.

Licata held on to the starting job for the rest of the month as Buffalo won three of its last four games, including a three-game winning streak that was its longest since it won five straight in 2008 under Turner Gill.

“The guys really just came along,” Licata said. “We didn’t quit all season. We had struggled early on, but then we got some momentum toward the end. Everyone really bought into the program.”

Licata again is the starter as Buffalo travels to Ohio Stadium on Saturday to face No. 2 Ohio State to kick off the season. The Buckeyes are 35-point favorites.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Licata, a 6-foot-2, 226-pound sophomore, “but we’re going in there to play the game. They still put their pants on one leg at a time. They’re still kids. They’re our age.”

For Quinn, who once worked as the offensive coordinator under Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly during his stops at Cincinnati and Central Michigan, Licata’s development presents some stability at quarterback, something that has been lacking during his previous three seasons at Buffalo.

“The consistency is key,” Quinn said. “Our kids have really rallied around Joe.”

That began in November, when Licata passed for 806 yards and five touchdowns in four games. He completed 56.5 percent of his passes and threw just two interceptions.

Zordich, a senior from Youngstown who is well-regarded for his running ability, might still get a few snaps in certain situations, but Licata is more of a traditional pocket passer and appears to be Quinn’s choice this fall.

Licata will run a fast-paced, no-huddle offense because Quinn says he can get the ball downfield and has an “understanding of how to manage things.”“You can see his growth is really improved,” Quinn said. “I really like where Joe is coming, and he’s going to give us everything he’s got.”

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman

Comments

Please Share Your Zip Code

To listen to 97.1 The Fan or ESPN 1460AM we ask that you provide a zip code so that we may give you the best audio connection possible.

Please enter your zip code:

No thanks