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Freshman Running Back Rich Pete is a big reason why the Bengals had an undefeated record at home this season. He rushed for 435 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 46 carries in Buffalo State’s four home games.
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Senior Safety Kevin Healy helped improve the Bengals run defense in 2011.
The last time the Buffalo State Bengals’ Football team finished with a record of .500 or better was in 2000 when the team held a 7-4 record as the ECAC Northwest Champs.
The Bengals (5-5) won’t be champions this season, but they’ll take their .500 record as a sign of improvement following a decade of losing seasons.
“Coming here when I was a sophomore, we went 2-8,” senior offensive lineman Aaron Roy said. “I never would’ve imagined going 5-5 my senior year. It’s a huge improvement and I’m glad that the juniors have a great stepping stone for next year.”
The Bengals started their season with a 1-3 record, but they focused more on the fundamentals and ended up winning four of their last six games.
“In the beginning, we were hurting ourselves with penalties,” said junior linebacker Pasquale Vacchio. “Now, we’ve cut down on the penalties. On defense, we’ve stopped the run [well]. We’re getting better with the pass game, but overall, we’ve just played better fundamental football.”
The Bengals’ season started off slow for the offense with Ryan Lehotsky as their starting quarterback, but they broke their record for most points scored by a team in a game with an 82-17 victory over Western Connecticut State. Casey Kacz took over for Lehotsky as the Bengals’ starting quarterback, though, following their 53-24 blowout loss to Montclair State.
Kacz finished the season with a 4-2 record as the starter. He ended the season completing 59.5 percent of his passes for 1,532 yards, eleven touchdowns and five interceptions. With Kacz as their quarterback, the Bengals’ spread offense was able to grow and the team was able to establish their identity better.
“[Our offense has] grown because we’ve had guys step into roles that they really didn’t have at the beginning of the year,” said Kacz. “The freshman Rich Pete has really stepped up for us big. Every game someone different has stepped up which is big. From the first few games, I feel like we were just finding out who we were as a team.”
Pete finished the season with a team-high 753 yards and nine touchdowns and was a big reason for his team going undefeated at home with a 4-0 record for the first time since 1999. In the Bengals’ four home games, Pete rushed for 435 yards and four touchdowns on just 46 carries.
“It feels great to be undefeated at home,” Pete said. “It gives me an outlook for next season that we really can be a winning team. We will definitely build and go to the playoffs next year, I believe.”
The Bengals might have a chance to contend next year because not only has their offense improved, but their defense also did a good job of fixing one of their biggest weaknesses over the last few years. Opponents averaged 191.4 rushing yards per game in 2009 and 196.5 yards per game in 2010. This year, the Bengals did a much better job, allowing an average of just 132.1 yards per game.
“The key for our defense has been stopping the run,” senior defensive back Kevin Healy said. “I haven’t really seen a team be able to run on us all year. We definitely improved from last year. Last year, we had some trouble stopping the run, but overall we’ve definitely [become] a lot better in the run game.”
The Bengals appeared to put forth more effort in practice as the season wore on and it showed during games when they were able to bounce back from their mistakes.
The Bengals did lose some close games though, but they were able hang around with the good teams in the fourth quarter.
“We lost a couple close ones, but our confidence has gone up a ton,” senior fullback Ben Mauer said. “We know that we can stick with the good teams. We should’ve beaten the good teams, but we let them slip away in the end.”
The Bengals will be without starting seniors Kevin Healy, Phil Graziadei, Ben Mauer, Aaron Roy, Kimani George, and Dan Mizro next year due to graduation, but the team is still very young and things look promising for the Bengals going forward.