by Paul Peck, Buffalo Sports Page
Four games. 128 passes. Zero Sacks.
While quarterback Tyree Jackson and receivers Anthony Johnson & K.J. Osborn are the headline-grabbers, the offensive line has been the star of the UB Bulls offense.
They are the only team in the country that has not allowed a sack. Beyond that, Jackson has barely been breathed on by an opposing defense.
The veteran group of big blockers up front takes pride in their protective skills. They also know it wouldn’t be possible without a quarterback who has the skills, knowledge and savvy to get rid of the football.
“Obviously, there have been times this season when we didn’t have the best protection. Tyree has helped up get out of it. We do a tremendous amount of preparation to know what our opponent is going to do,” says senior center James O’Hagan.
The Center of Attention
O’Hagan is the guy who makes it all happen. That’s not just because he’s the one snapping the ball. A four year starter, O’Hagan is a leader of the group in every way. Watch game tape? Check. Guide the other starters? Check. Help all his fellow lineman get ready and comfortable? That’s a snap for #77.
“No one watches more film than James O’Hagan,” says Bulls Head Coach Lance Leipold. “It starts there. From the the time we arrived as a staff, he was the first to reach out and tell us he’ll do whatever it takes. I want to help build this program into a winner.”
Leipold says that O’Hagan has made the offensive line meeting room his second home. O’Hagan spends 2-3 hours a day watching game tape in preparation for his opponent. He’s almost like offensive line coach Daryl Agpalsa’s special assistant.
“Kind of understanding something that we’re weak at, working on that, and understanding what a team will attack us with has helped us stifle what they’ve been bringing,” says O’Hagan, who played in front of 35 friends and family from his Long Island home last week at Rutgers.
The Men Up Front
O’Hagan is the right guy to introduce and inform us on his four other partners on the offensive line:
- Left Tackle Evan Ksiezarczyk: “I have trouble spelling his last name. He’s doing a great job in pass protection.”
- Left Guard Paul Nosworthy: “Another Long Island guy like me. I’ve taken him under my wing. He’s playing really well right now.”
- Right Guard Tomas Jack-Kurdyla: “From Canada. Really good in the run game. He’s been improving on his pass protection.”
- Right Tackle Kayode Awosika: “Really talented. Really athletic. Did a really good job on All-MAC player Maxx Crosby from Eastern Michigan.”
Nosworthy and Awosika are new starters from a year ago. O’Hagan, Jack-Kurdyla and Ksiezarczyk have combined for 80 career starts.
Along without allowing a sack, the Bulls offensive line is also second in the country in fewest tackles for loss allowed. So basically, no opposing defense has gotten anywhere near the Bulls backfield.
While that comes from outstanding blocking, it also comes from an offense that is executing at a high level all the time. Jackson, also know as “T3”, is a big reason for that.
“An experienced quarterback who can recognize things and get us out of bad plays is big. Our RPO (run-pass option) schemes a lot of times give us the opportunity to be right and avoid negative plays. Our running backs have been good in protection,” says Leipold.
Leipold cites Agpalsa and his teaching skills as being a key as well.
It all equals an offense averaging 40 points a game that has scored 30 or more points in seven straight games. That’s the third longest streak in the NCAA.
That’s plenty of chances for the five offensive lineman to celebrate in the end zone. Next to the offensive line meeting room, that’s O’Hagan and his linemates favorite place to hang out.