|In his senior year, at age 26, Kyle Hoppy is hitting his prime as Buffalo State's starting quarterback.
Buffalo State athletics photo
By Jason Bowen
Buffalo State quarterback Kyle Hoppy doesn’t mind being ribbed a little about his age by his teammates.
“I just roll with and try to teach them how to do things the right way”
At 26, he may be one of the oldest players in D-III football, but he is also been, when healthy, a very productive one.
The fifth-year senior, whom Around the East profiled back in 2014 as he transitioned from minor league baseball to starting quarterback, has led the Bengals to a 3-0 start.
During that streak, the Bengals have had to come back each time.
Hoppy directed fourth quarter game-winning drives against Bridgewater State and Morrisville State and then lead the Bengals back from a 12-point halftime deficit last week to knock RPI from the unbeaten ranks last week.
After missing almost all of the 2015 season and some of last year with injury, the experience that Hoppy has gained is being put to use. The senior has nearly 6,000 yards in total offense during his career, while accounting for 50 touchdowns. This season, he is 56-of-90 for 799 yards with touch passes and zero interceptions.
“There’s nothing that beats the experience learned from (past) mistakes,” Buffalo State coach Jerry Boyes said. “The game has slowed down for him.
“His ability to call plays at the line of scrimmage has been key for us. He’s a quarterback that can throw and run. Lots of guys and run and throw, but aren’t quarterbacks. He is a quarterback.”
That experience and maturity has also basically made him an assistant coach on the field. Even as an older freshman, Hoppy knew his leadership qualities were there.
But now, his extensive experience in the offensive scheme and identifying defenses allows him to get the Bengals into the best play often at the line of scrimmage.
Nowhere was that more evident than last week as Buffalo St. posted 24 unanswered second-half points to beat RPI.
“RPI is a solid, sound and disciplined defense,” Hoppy said. “But all schemes have weaknesses, you just have to find it and execute.”
The 3-0 start is the Bengals best since 1999, back in a different century. The last decade of that century was a golden age for football at the school. With Boyes at the helm, the program made ten consecutive postseason appearances, including seven trips to the NCAA playoffs. Most of those years, the field was just 16 teams.
Boyes, a two-time All-American quarterback at Ithaca in the seventies, moved up to the athletic director position soon after but returned in 2009 after the Bengals dropped to 1-9. They’ve made strides since his return. At .500 or above every year since 2011, they shocked defending champion UW-Whitewater in 2012 to end the Warhawks’ long winning streak. There were ECAC bowl appearances in 2014 and 2015.
But with the advent of the Empire 8, which the program entered in 2012, reaching the heights of the nineties has been tough to replicate.
“Moving on to the NCAA level,” Boyes said. “That’s still the expectation --- the standard.”
According to Boyes, what it takes to build a successful program hasn’t changed; Build a culture that recruits the right players who will work hard, buy in and accept discipline. He feels this team is in a similar cycle to his teams from the early nineties that set the stage for success.
“Those things never change,” the veteran coach said. “Football is about the details. It’s harder today in the E8. Pick a team, they’ll win this week. You have prepare to be at your best each week.”
For Boyes, the end of his coaching career is closer than the front but he has but no timetable on retirement.
“I am still having fun,” he said. “I look forward to the chess match each game day.”
Still the AD, Boyes jokes that he puts himself one a one-year contract each year.
As Hoppy winds down an athletic career that will end much later than most guys who play D-III football, the legacy of this Bengal team is on his mind as much as a future in coaching or career in management.
“Football is a good way of getting ready for the real world,” he said. “Coaching is a passion of mine and it is all about managing people.”
The Bengals will travel to Alfred, the defending E8 champs, on Saturday. The Saxons have beaten Buffalo State each year since they joined the E8. That represents almost all of the time Hoppy has been part of the program.
“We want to come out and show what we have. We want to show that we are back.”
Games this Week
No. 10 Delaware Valley (4-0, 3-0 MAC) at FDU-Florham (1-3, 0-3). The Aggies scored a big victory last week over defending MAC champion Stevenson. They’ll have avoid looking ahead to next week’s match up with Albright. Devil quarterback Jagger Green has the ability to cause some headaches, but they’ll need a big game from receiver Malik Pressley, who has just three catches since opening the season with a 16-catch, 271-yard with three touchdowns in their opener.
No. 16 Brockport (4-0, 2-0 E8) at Cortland (2-1, 1-0). The Dragons have had two weeks to prepare after nipping Hartwick 31-30. Cortland has the balance on offense to hang, but their defense will have to step after allowing an average of 30 points a game thus far. The Golden Eagles have won three of the last four.
Buffalo St (3-0, 1-0 E8) at No. 20 Alfred (3-0, 1-0 E8). The defending E8 champion Saxons have won 15-of-16 dating back to 2016. Still does it seem that they are flying under the radar? After rushing for 423 yards in last week’s win over Rochester, a victory over the Bengals could be their first big statement of 2017.
Southern Virginia (0-4, 0-4 NJAC) at No. 23 Wesley (2-1, 2-0). The record doesn’t show it, but the Knights are a more competitive team on the field this season. Still it will take a lot for them to stay in the game against a Wesley defense that has not given up a touchdown in the last 10 quarters.
Misericordia (1-3, 1-2 MAC) at Stevenson (2-2, 2-1). The Cougars scored 37 straight points to blast Wilkes and get their first victory. They can move the ball, behind quarterback Brady Williams who has more than 1,000 yards of total offense and has accounted for eight touchdowns. The Mustangs have the explosive passing combination of Dan Williams to Preston Addo, but have struggled to run the ball this season.
Wilkes (0-4, 0-3 MAC) at Lycoming (1-3, 1-2). The Colonels hard to figure, playing Del Val tough but falling apart against Misericordia. The Warriors scored their first win with a late score on the road at King’s. Lyco could be on the way back to the .500 mark with back-to-back home games starting this week.
Albright (4-0, 3-0 MAC) at King’s (2-2, 1-2). The Lions needed a late field goal to top Widener last week 9-7. A win this week would set up a showdown for the MAC lead against Del Val next week. They’ll need to stop Monarch quarterback Zach Whitehead, a dual threat, who has guided their offense 85 points over the past two weeks. Quarterback Alec Vignola has been super but Albright needs to run the ball better averaging just 3.8 yards per carry.
Lebanon Valley (2-2, 2-1 MAC) at Widener (2-2, 2-1). The loser here in all likelihood says goodbye to their MAC titles hopes. The Pride defense has been stellar, will the offense score enough? The Dutch need to prove they can beat someone with a conference win this year after beating Wilkes and FDU-Florham earlier.
Union (3-1) at Morrisville State (2-1). The winner of this nonconference game probably won’t contend for a championship this season. But both are winning games early against similar non-conference schedules (Husson, Coast Guard, Gallaudet, Curry for Union; Norwich, Nichols for Morrisville).
Hartwick (2-2, 1-1 E8) at Utica (1-3, 0-2). This one looks like a toss-up as the grind of the E8 approaches midseason. The Pioneers are happy to be home after having lost three in a row on the road. The Hawks have won two of three with a one-point loss Cortland sandwiched in between. Will Utica score enough to hang?
Hobart (3-1, 0-0 LL) at Ithaca (1-2, 1-0 LL). One of the most interesting games on the schedule this week. The Statesmen are rolling after a loss in their opener, while Ithaca picked up its inaugural Liberty League win. Bomber Wahid Nabi will need the explosive plays he got from receivers Will Gladney and JR Zazzara last week, to hang with the balanced Hobart attack.
St. Lawrence (1-2) at Western New England (2-2). Both teams desperately need a win to turn around what so far have been disappointing seasons.
Rochester (1-2) at Becker (0-4). Wins could be hard to come by for the Jackets after this week.
Kean (1-2, 1-1 NJAC) at Montclair St (1-2, 1-1). Local rivals, two hard-hitting defenses. Take the under if you are betting this game (Ed. note: Don’t bet on this game, or any Division III game).
Rowan (3-1, 2-1 NJAC) at Christopher Newport (3-1, 2-1) The majority of the New Jersey-based NJAC teams have a defense you can win with. Offense is another story. This game could look something like the Captains’ 16-8 win from last week over Montclair.