UMass has eye on win No. 2 Saturday

The Minutemen closed the first half of 2013 with a flourish, winning their first game 17-10 over Miami (Ohio) this past Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

Though it took until Week 6 for the first win to come, that can be counted as a progress. UMass didn’t win its first game until Week 10 in 2012.

“I'm so proud of this group of guys,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said, according to a transcript of his weekly conference call. “Not only the way they played on Saturday, but really the way they prepared during game week and the way they have stayed together through some challenging times.”

Now the Minutemen want win No. 2.

Coincidentally, the opponent UMass will face coming off its first win of 2013 -- Buffalo -- is the same opponent UMass faced coming off its first win of 2012. The Minutemen lost to Buffalo 29-19 at home in Week 11 last season.

The teams will kick off this year’s matchup at UB Stadium in Buffalo at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday (on ESPN3).

Heading into Week 7 of 2013, Buffalo (4-2, 2-0 MAC) is fourth in the MAC in scoring (29.2 points per game) and rushing offense (160 yards per game).

And while the Bulls are only fifth in the MAC in scoring defense, allowing 26.5 points per game through the first six weeks, those stats may be skewed a bit by games against powerhouses Ohio State (a 40-20 loss in Week 1) and Baylor (a 70-13 loss in Week 2).

The Buckeyes were ranked No. 2 and the Bears were ranked No. 23 when they ran up the score on the Bulls early in the season.

In its past two games, both MAC matchups, Buffalo has given up a total of 14 points.

Senior linebacker Khalil Mack and senior defensive lineman Colby Way have been impressive for Buffalo, with Mack leading the MAC in tackles for loss with 8.0 and Way right behind him with 7.5, according to cfbstats.com. Buffalo leads the conference in sacks with 21, and both Mack and Way are tied for second in the MAC with 5 sacks apiece this season.

Molnar praised Mack’s playmaking ability and said the Minutemen would be spending time planning for him.

“It's going to take all of our attention for the next several days trying to figure out ways we can slow him down,” the coach said.

Though they managed a season-high 17 points against the RedHawks, the Minutemen offense still ranks at the bottom of the conference in scoring with an average of 8.7 points per game.

UMass has come a long way since its loss to Buffalo in 2012, according to Molnar.

“We knew last year when we went into the Buffalo game following [the win over] Akron that we still had a lot of work to do,” Molnar said. “We started off fast last year against Buffalo and had a lead going into halftime and through most of the third quarter. We did wear down in the game; we didn't have the depth that we have today and we didn't have the experience we have today. Those two things are just matters of your team maturing over time.

“We still have a ways to go from a maturity and depth standpoint, but we are in a better position today than we were a year ago at this time.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.