Buffalo coach gets Army's anguish following player's death
AMHERST, N.Y. (AP) Sadly, Buffalo coach Lance Leipold knows too well the pain and sorrow Jeff Monken and his Army players are dealing with following the recent sudden death of Black Knights cornerback Brandon Jackson.
It has been only seven months since Leipold and his Bulls experienced similar emotions, when linebacker Solomon Jackson died a week after collapsing during a team conditioning session.
''It's a lot of sadness and a lot of other things that you're going through,'' Leipold recalled as Buffalo (0-2) prepares to host Army (3-0) on Saturday night. ''There's an empty chair in the room, and there's an empty spot on the plane and the bus and a locker.''
The toughest part is finding a balance between life and football.
''There's not a manual that I know of for this,'' Leipold said. ''You just try to do your best.''
The Bulls are honoring Solomon Jackson by wearing a No. 41 decal on their helmets.
The Black Knights will do the same to honor Brandon Jackson, who died in a one-car crash on Sept. 11.
''It has been a very emotional last eight or nine days for our football team,'' Monken said. ''I am incredibly proud of our guys and how they responded.''
On Saturday, Army took care of business on the field with a 66-14 win at UTEP .
On Monday, the Black Knights paid their respects by attending Jackson's funeral in New York.
Now it's up to Monken to turn the attention back to football for a team off to its best start since Army went 9-0 to open the 1996 season.
''It's important to maintain an even keel about where we're at in terms of our record,'' Monken said. ''There's a lot of things that I need to do better with this team to have them better prepared so they don't make any mistakes.''
The Black Knights offense was nearly perfect against UTEP by scoring on all nine drives - eight touchdowns and a field goal. They racked up 598 yards offense, including 424 rushing, 33 first downs and converted 10 of 12 third-down chances.
Running its ever-familiar triple-option running attack, Army ranks second in the nation with 1,101 yards rushing.
The Mid-American Conference Bulls are experiencing the telltale signs of a rebuilding year in Leipold's second season, coming off losses to Nevada and lower-division Albany.
Buffalo's roster features 42 newcomers, including 6-foot-7 quarterback Tyree Jackson, a redshirt freshman set to make his second career start.
Other things of note as Army attempts to win four straight for the first time since 2005:
ON THE RUN
Bulls defensive end Demone Harris was on the sideline redshirting during the 2014 season, when Army had 341 yards rushing in a 47-39 win over Buffalo at West Point.
On Saturday, Harris will experience firsthand the challenge of keeping the Black Knights in check. The key, Harris said, is patience and keeping your pad-level low to disrupt the Black Knights blocking schemes.
Buffalo has allowed 477 yards rushing, including 352 and four TDs in a 38-14 loss at Nevada last weekend.
The 66 points scored against UTEP were Army's most since a 68-6 win over Colgate on Nov. 1, 1958. And the 52-point margin of victory was the program's largest since a 55-0 win over Fordham on Oct. 29, 2011.
Tyree Jackson has been a work in progress through two games. He's gone 21 of 47 for 255 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, and is also second on the team with 147 yards rushing.
Jackson, however, was inconsistent against Nevada in going 7 of 22 for 130 yards passing and a touchdown, and failed to complete a pass to a receiver.
''It's not if, it's when,'' Leipold said of Jackson playing to his potential. ''We just had hope that `when,' was going to be a little sooner than where we're at at this point.''
Army starting quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw and backup Chris Carter have seen action in every game so far. Bradshaw is the team's second-leading rusher with 152 yards. Carter logged significant time last week against UTEP, gaining 94 yards on the ground with a touchdown and throwing for 47 yards.
Of the many offers of condolences Buffalo received following Solomon Jackson's death, Leipold the most notable was from Army.
Aside from a note, he said Army also reached out to the player's family.
''It meant a lot,'' Leipold said. ''And we'll try to do the same.''
Online: AP College Football website www.collegefootball.ap.org