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The Goal - See 'em all!
Ohio Bobcats Brand Buffalo Bulls, 34-20
Collegefootballfan.com reaches Century Mark!
Amherst, NY - The Ohio U. Bobcats (4-4, 3-2) defeated the Buffalo Bulls (0-8,0-5) in front of a few close friends, relatives, and CFF in a game marred by 29 penalties thrown by flag-happy referees who overturned three more rulings, flagged Ohio with two sideline warnings, and ejected one Bull player before the Cats settled for a 34-20 win that left them in a four-way tie for first place in the MAC's East Division. The "Bonehead Play of the Year" Award goes to one Bull's player which was a momentum killer after they closed the score to 27-20 and had possession of the ball. The whistle-blowing and flag throwing resulted in a four hour game that was hard to enjoy, and surprisingly, this game included TV timeouts! It was hard to figure who was watching since only 5,814 (announced) fans had any interest to attend. Ohio State was on TV, too, so who in Ohio was watching? With this game, Collegefootballfan.com watched its 100th and 101st different 1A football teams to get to The Goal to see all 119. These two teams complete the MAC for us as we strive for our Goal exceeding the 100-team mark! It was a beautiful fall day, and the six-hour drives each way were long but easy trips to see these two teams play. The best we can say is that we got these two out of the way. Maybe we'll plan to see them again after they turn things around. Frank Solich seems to be getting Ohio headed in the right direction, but even the Bulls radio coverage after the game insinuated that some decisions by the UB administration was going to have to make some decisions after the season to determine the fate of this struggling program. It's too bad the Bulls are struggling because the setting there is a nice place to watch a game.
Ohio got off to a quick start and made it seem as if this game would be a "laugher". The Bulls deferred the ball to start the game thinking that the defense was the strength of this team which was very much not in evidence. UB came in with a mindset that this was a great shot at a win since Ohio came in 0-2 at UB Stadium since 1999 and had not yet won a game on the road this season (losses include games at VA Tech and at Northwestern, two ranked opponents). The Bobcats took its first possession and drove 72 yards for the first score of the game when QB Austen Everson threw a 39 yard TD pass to WR Scott Mayle. The point after was no good, and Ohio U. had a 6-0 lead. On Ohio's next possession, Mayle took a pitch on an end around and scampered 50 yards to the Bull three. From there, TB Kalvin McRae ( 224 yards, 31 carries) took it in and with Matt Miller's conversion, the route seemed on at 13-0 at the 7:59 mark into the game. DB Dion Byrum of the Bobcats intercepted the Bull's Drew Willy's pass to thwart the next Bull possession and returned it 27 yards to the 50. The turnover only resulted in better field position for Ohio though as they quick-kicked on fourth down to put the Bulls back on their own four.
Neither team scored again until 6:39 remained in the second half as Ohio Head Coach Frank Solich replaced his Junior QB with Frosh Brandon Jones. Jones added a running dimension to the offense, and the mix of play calls resulted with Jones finding WR Justin Fitzgerald in the back right corner of the end zone for a 19-yard scoring play. The Bobcats were up 20-0. The Bulls threatened to score once before the half as RB Jared Patterson (5 runs for 93 yards) broke off a 64-yard run to the Ohio 21. The threat ended though when Mike Baker's FG attempt came up no good. Neither team threatened again before the half ended with the Bobcats in charge, 20-0. CFF envisioned a shutout as the half ended.
We decided to take advantage of the many empty seats to find a better camera angle in Q3 and moved to the spacious upper deck during halftime. UB's band, "Thunder of the East", performed, and two contests took place as CFF and 5,813 other ticket holders won a free value meal at Wendy's in Western, NY and/or Warren County, PA when one of the few UB students in attendance caught three balls sent into orbit by the automatic punt machine. It was the UB highlight of the day thus far. One catch would have gotten us a small Frosty. Two would have gotten us a free medium French fry order. Our guy got us the top prize! The other contest entailed throwing a Nerf football through open car windows of to win them. A closer throw was for two free airline tickets, and the closest toss was to win a football game software package. The two contestants came up empty on all counts. The first toss is a tough distance with a Nerf Ball. Later, before the last quarter started, a body shop sponsored a fumble contest between two guys dressed in inflated Sumo costumes on. They both bounced and rolled over one another until one came up with the loose football. Neither could get up off their back in the suits, and they had to be lifted up off the ground. It was comical to watch, but we're not sure what they won.
The end of the halftime festivities marked a first for us in 288 games during 26 years toward Our Goal. The Bulls lined up at midfield and the coach had them through sprint drills to the end zone and back several times. Not having been to a Bulls' game before, we weren't sure if this was typical, or a punishment, or something to get the Bulls blood boiling. A comment in the men's room at the half was overheard to say that Jim Hohfer, the Bull's coach, had to be the "worst Coach ever". Buffalo took their deferred kickoff starting from the 20. One bright spot for the Bull offense, TE Chad Upshaw (8 catches for 116 yards), caught a pass from Frosh QB Drew Willy, and carried several Bobcat defenders for several more yards at the end of a 44-yard catch and run to get the Bulls to the Ohio 15. It took an interference call against Ohio on a fourth and nine from the fourteen to give the Bulls another chance to score, and it paid off as RB Steven King ran it in on the next play to get Buffalo its first points of the day. Baker's kick was good to make it 20-7. One of many personal foul calls against the Bulls was assessed on the next kickoff , and Ohio fair caught the ball at their own 41 to start the next series in good field position. McRae was on a roll as he went 26 yards to the Bull 26, and set back by penalties, scampered around right end and down the sideline for a 33-yard TD run. Ohio indicated that it was not going to let the Bulls back into the game, but the Bulls had other intentions. After exchanging punts, the Bulls took over on their 44 and on a beautifully executed pump-fake and go, Willy tossed a 36-yard TD pass to a streaking WR Evan Wallace wide open down the left sideline. Baker's PAT went wide left to keep the score 27-13. Before the quarter ended, the Bulls forced an Ohio punt and started to move the ball through the air as the quarter expired.
The Bulls started the final stanza at the OU 30. Several plays later, RB Steven King (77 yards on 18 carries) seemed stopped dead in a pile up from the four, but continued to move the line with his individual power surge to fall into the end zone for a tough TD run. With the extra point, the Bulls were amazingly in striking distance, 27-20. They were one point shy of their season-high point total of 21. Both teams were suddenly more fired up! The Bulls were in the game, and the Bobcats knew that they had to stop them. On its next series, Ohio came up short by a foot on a third and seven pass from their own 23 and were forced to punt. The kick bounded down around the 43, but before the play was over, one overzealous Bull just looking to "hit someone", turned and whacked an Ohio player about 25 yards away from the ball right in front of an official. The ubiquitous yellow flag came out, and the Bulls were set back fifteen yards for our "Bonehead Play of the Year". With momentum building, Buffalo had great position originally on their won 43 instead of the 28. Hohfer threw his headset and raged at his offender! Momentum waned. The fifteen yard assessment made a big difference because on the very next play, Willy's pitch to King was mishandled and Ohio recovered the ball at the Buffalo 24. OU took it to the fourteen from where Everson threw a TD pass in the back left corner of the end zone to WR/DB Dion Byrum. The Buffalo momentum was dead. On its ensuing drive, the Bulls got to the 47 for a fourth and ten. It was a long, monotonous drive as each play seemed to be followed by a dead ball foul, some evident, some invisible. One unnoticed led to the ejection of the Bull's starting LT Zach Love. Though only more than five minutes remained and still needing two scores, the Bulls punted. Starting from the fourteen, the Bobcats ate up the clock and punted back from Buffalo's 42. The game stretched on until exactly four hours since the opening kickoff. The Bulls had the ball when the clock ran out, and CFF left the game with two thoughts in mind - we had a long ride home, and we were glad this one was over. It wasn't pretty, but we had the satisfaction that we had these two teams out of our way on the way to The Goal! The Century Mark now seems like an amazing feat to us. Eighteen more teams to see seems like nothing after saying that we've now seen 101! The Bulls meet another MAC East Division leader when they travel to Miami O. next week. In two weeks, they go to Kent to play the other 0-5 team in their division to determine the bottom of the MAC East barrel. Ohio has its work cut out for themselves over the last three games as they face West Division leader Toledo (6-2,4-1) at home before visiting East co-leader Akron (4-4, 3-2) and finishing home with co-leader Miami O. (5-3, 3-2). A few wins here would show great progress for the Bobcats in only one year under the former Nebraska mentor, Frank Solich. A sweep could mean a MAC championship game and a surprising Bowl bid as well after finishing last season at 2-9.
Extra Points: The State University of New York at Buffalo has a beautiful campus with many brand new buildings spread out over lush, green rolling lawns. We imagine those lawns will be covered with white stuff in another month or so. UB Stadium is a nice setting as well. The administration seemed ready for a better turnout, but the struggling football program cannot bring in the fans. And don't forget, fans can buy Bills tickets to see decent football up in that part of New York State.
The drive up on Friday was long but interesting. Snow covers the hills already in the upper regions of the Poconos. Route 17 passes through the small town of Appalchin, NY where the Mafia was exposed back in the '50s. You travel through the Finger Lakes region generally along the Susquehanna River. We recommend the pizza at Picnic Pizza past Corning on the way up.
You realize that you're in hockey country when you go to a nearby Hooter's and the only game on a dozen monitors is the Sabres vs. Devils game. We didn't cheer when the Devils won, 3-2, for realization that we were on our own. (I'm only a very casual fan any way). A hockey post-game show stayed on the air afterward until I got someone's attention that ESPN had the Colorado State-New Mexico game on. It went up on all the monitors. Outside of the big beers, Hooter's is always a disappointment to me. Talk about over-rated!
We stayed at a Motel 6 in Amherst which was pretty nice. We know what they mean when they say, "we'll leave the lights on for you." As we pulled off the exit on I-290, we saw all the lights turned on at UB Stadium which was only about a mile from the motel. It was a welcome sight since it wouldn't be difficult to find the next day.
For us, the UB turnout was culture shock as far as attendance was concerned. UB holds about 30,000 and the head count still seemed quite generous. East Stroudsburg at West Chester may have had more if not for the horrible weather the week before, and this was a gorgeous, if not cool, fall day. We were thinking about Frank Solich's position after coming from such an extreme environment at Nebraska. Last time we saw him, it was in front of the largest crowd ever at Beaver Stadium as 110,753 watched the Lions wreck Nebraska 40-7. The pay-off is that at UB in front of around 5,000, he won. Keep an eye on this program. We think Solich will have his team competing with the upper echelon of the MAC within a year if not sooner.
UB has an unusual, and evidently ineffective, strategy. Neither offense or defense lines up in huddle. Signals are signaled in and all players watch. On offense, the QB stands with the lineman as ends and backs stand and move to the formations without breaking from the huddle. The defense stands at their positions and do the same. At 0-8, something could be wrong here and no one notices. The Bulls seem to have a few talented players. You may hear from TE Upshaw, who's a Junior, later on.
The UB crowd was so sparse, one could easily hear the gun shots from the local Buffalo Shooting Club being fired nearby. Our next two trips to see New York teams could be similar. However, Syracuse plays indoors where you can't hear the hunter's shots off in the nearby woods, and at Army, they bring cannons into Michie Stadium! The three NY host teams have two wins right now among them. Syracuse's one win was against these winless Bulls. We'll see the face another herd of Bulls when South Florida comes to the Carrier Dome.
When teams are down, it's economical for our purposes. Parking costs $5, a 4-page program costs $1, and a ticket to sit just about anywhere costs $15. The cost to see two new teams in one shot (along with the price of gas, a cheap hotel room, and a bar bill at Hooter's) - priceless. Wait until next week in Fresno, but we've got free airfare and a place to stay two of three nights. As you can imagine, not many people buy Buffalo Bulls tickets to begin with, so no one was trying to sell any leftovers out in the parking lots.
The Bulls have He/She mascots names Victor E. Bull and Victoria S. Bull. Victoria was invited to keep one little girl fan warm for a few minutes.
One of the two loud, brazen (drunk?) Bull fans drew the loudest cheer of the day when he turned and saw the Head Coach of the Bulls B-ball team. "Reggie Witherspoon! Big basketball season, Reggie!" Last year's Bulls set a school record with 23 wins and a trip to the MAC championship. They lost that game and went on from there to win a game against Drexel in the NIT. Fans at four 1A schools down in North Carolina aren't the only ones waiting for Round ball.