Potato Bowl Notebook: Dec. 20, 2013

December 20, 2013 

  • BOWDEN WON’T BE IN BOISE TODAY

    Former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden had travel issues Thursday and won't be the keynote speaker at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes' Bowl Breakfast, which starts at 7:30 a.m. at the Boise Centre.

    Bowden was stranded in Atlanta after Salt Lake City International Airport shut down for about two hours in the morning because of heavy snow. About 200 flights were canceled and more than 100 others were delayed.

    Boise FCA spokesman Ken Lewis said Bowden will appear via Skype, and that Buffalo and San Diego State players will speak as scheduled, and take questions and answers from the audience.

    Bowden, 84, is the winningest coach in major college football history.

BUFFALO: THE PRIDE OF NEW YORK?

Buffalo is hoping that a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl championship can help push the school and its athletic department to a even bigger title: the public flagship university of the state of New York.

“Nobody’s staked claim to that,” Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn said. “We have the best and the most potential to get that done.”

Buffalo — technically the State University of New York at Buffalo — is the largest of the 64 SUNY campuses spread across the state. Buffalo is a member of the prestigious American Association of Universities, once considered a must for entrance into the Big Ten.

With an enrollment of 28,952, Buffalo wants to parlay its size and academic success into the kind of statewide fandom enjoyed by Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

They want to be New York’s team, even starting a “New York Bulls” initiative designed to “position UB as the premier athletic department in the state.”

They’ve started by trying to become Buffalo’s team. The Bulls have expanded tailgating, adding a free concert series, and reached out to alumni and boosters throughout the area.

A winning season — one of the best in school history — has helped, too. Buffalo set a school record for attendance with 136,418 (22,736 per game), shattering the old mark by more than 28,000 total fans.

“You go to Subway, you go to the store and people are like, ‘Oh, you play for the Bulls. You guys are having a great season. I’m coming this weekend.’ It’s just amazing in that aspect,” said senior wide receiver Alex Neutz, who grew up in nearby Grand Island, N.Y.

KICKING GAME WOES

Senior Wes Feer will handle the duties for San Diego State, but don’t expect the Aztecs to try very many field goals.

Feer has not made a field goal since Sept. 28.

He made his first eight attempts this season, but missed his final three and was replaced by sophomore Seamus McMorrow.

McMorrow missed all four of his attempts, including a game-winning try against Fresno State. The kick was blocked.

McMorrow is injured and unlikely to play against Buffalo.

San Diego State has not attempted a field goal since Nov. 9 against San Jose State — and the team has missed its last seven tries.

“I never had fourth-down plays on my game plan and now I have several fourth-and-shorts, fourth-and-mediums and fourth-and-longs,” offensive coordinator Bob Toledo said. “I’ve gone for more fourth-down plays than I have in the history of my coaching career.”

San Diego State is 15-of-35 on fourth down this season.

TACKLING DRILLS

Tackling is the one of the most basic skills in football. But it’s usually reserved for defensive players or special teams coverage units. Not so with Buffalo. Quinn wants to make sure all Bulls, no matter their position, are able to tackle.

“Everyone in my program — kickers, receivers, everybody — learns how to tackle. I mean because you never know when that one split-second moment in the game of football when someone is going to have to make a play is. … Sometimes it’s your quarterback. It’s your receiver. Maybe it’s the kicker,” Quinn said.

ESTABLISHING A TRADITION

San Diego State is making its fourth consecutive bowl appearance, a school record. The Aztecs are one of 29 schools to make a bowl game in each of the last four years. San Diego State and Boise State are the only Mountain West schools that can make that claim.

“It’s a tradition here to go to a bowl game,” senior safety Nat Berhe said. “That’s what we preach.”

Buffalo, making its second bowl appearance in school history, has been building toward this game.

“The senior class, we’ve been together four and a half years and we never went to a bowl game, never went to a MAC championship,” said Neutz, the Bulls receiver. “We knew we had a special team coming.”

Brian Murphy

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