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Football game canceled amid snowstorm

Stranded Kent State equipment truck causes cancelation of Bulls' final home game

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Senior center and captain Trevor Sales sent Buffalo Athletic Director Danny White multiple angry tweets and said his parents would not see his final home after driving 11 hours through a blizzard. Junior quarterback Joe Licata tweeted “mad is an understatement,” and was so desperate to face Kent State he challenged the Golden Flashes to a snowball fight.

Several Buffalo football players voiced their displeasure on Twitter Thursday night after the cancelation of the Bulls’ Nov. 19 game against Kent State, costing the Buffalo seniors the final home game of their careers and a chance to finish the season with a .500 record.

If the Bulls had won their final two games of the season, there was an outside chance of them making a bowl game. There are 39 bowl games this season, which means 78 teams are necessary to fill those slots. Teams that finish 6-6 with less than two wins against FCS schools are considered “Bowl eligible.”

But if 78 teams don’t meet this standard, teams who finished 6-6 with two FCS victories become bowl eligible. The Bulls would have ben one of those teams and there is a slight possibility of less than 78 teams qualifying at 6-6 this season. Now, the Bulls can’t finish better than 5-6 and have no possibility of playing in a bowl game.

“It was very tough and it was very unfair. The right decision was not made,” said senior defensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli. “I believe in the administration and coaching staff and I know we fought our butts off to get that game played but I just think every team has their right to make the postseason and play 12 games.”

The Wednesday night game was postponed and later canceled by the Mid-American Conference on Thursday, after the Golden Flashes’ equipment truck was unable to reach Buffalo due to road closings caused by Western New York’s massive lake effect snow storm. The truck became stranded on Route 5 in Hamburg, New York without a route to get to UB Stadium.

After postponing the game on Wednesday afternoon, MAC, Buffalo and Kent State officials “tentatively” rescheduled the game for Friday afternoon after a Thursday morning conference call. The MAC then announced Thursday night that the game had been canceled and would not be rescheduled.

“Despite the best efforts of all involved, it will not be feasible to play the football game between Kent State and Buffalo on Friday,” said MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher in a press release Thursday. "The game has been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. The safety of the student-athletes and fans is paramount. We want to be respectful of the efforts of the emergency service personnel in the Buffalo area who are working to assist those in need.”

A UB Athletics press release on Wednesday, however, cited “travel issues” with Kent State’s equipment truck as the cause of the postponement. Jon Fuller, Buffalo Assistant Athletic Director for Communications, said on Wednesday the Bulls were prepared to play the game at UB Stadium had it not been for the delay of Kent State’s equipment truck.

“It’s all about the truck,” Fuller said Wednesday. “Everyone else is here. If they can’t get the truck here, we’re going to have to come up with a final decision. We’re going to have to see what the weather is like and go from there.”

After leaving Ohio at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, the equipment truck and three team buses transporting players and coaches stopped in Erie, Pennsylvania to convene on the best route to take in the weather conditions. Kent State officials determined the vehicles would travel Interstate 86 and 390 through Rochester, New York in order to avoid the storm and road closings.

There was a miscommunication with the equipment truck driver, who instead took Interstate 90 – which is currently closed due to the weather conditions. After what is normally a three-hour trip became a 10-hour one due to a flat tire and travelling an additional 150 miles in order to avoid road closings, the Kent State players and coaches arrived at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel in downtown Buffalo at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night.

“The equipment truck, for whatever reason, decided to try and go the regular way through Route 5,” Fuller said Wednesday. “For whatever reason, they did not take the route the buses took and that is why they are in the situation they’re in.”

Some players found out about the cancelation Thursday through social media.

“A lot of guys saw it on Twitter and then they got text about it,” Licata said. “[Interim head] coach Wood had a team meeting [Friday] said there’s nothing we can do about it. It was a decision our conference made. We knew our administration and our coaching staff really wanted to play this game and did everything in their power.”

Still, some players voiced their displeasure with the decision and some seemed to place the blame on UB Athletics, including Sales.

When White tweeted “Disappointed for our team that game is cancelled, but I want to thank the MANY UB folks who worked incredibly hard to make it possible,” Thursday night, Sales replied to the tweet saying “making what possible? Seniors missing their last home game??”

When White sent out a tweet several minutes later to clarify he was “referring to the extraordinary effort, in extreme conditions, by staff to host this game,” when he said “‘make it possible,”” Sales replied “yeah, save it.”

Sales was not made available for comment at Sunday’s practice.

Wednesday’s game was set to be Buffalo’s Senior night – where senior players are honored before the game. Sokoli said the Bulls would honor their seniors at the end of the year team banquet.

Several players referenced on Twitter that the Bulls would use the cancelation as motivation against Kent State next season. Senior linebacker Jake Stockman tweeted the Bulls would win against Kent State “anytime, anywhere. Schedule it. Let’s go.” Licata said he got a few responses from Kent State players about his request for a snowball fight.

“They said ‘Bring it on.’ I don’t think they realized we’d probably beat them in that,” Licata said.

Buffalo took several precautions for the game had it been played. Only the West Side 100 Level and 200 Levels would have been opening for seating and Friday’s tentatively rescheduled game was set to be free for the public because low turnout was expected, according to Fuller. UB Athletics previously canceled the Tragically Hip’s Tailgate Concert Series Performance and all Stampede Square pregame festivities Tuesday. Fuller said UB Athletics did not want fans outside “in the cold for that extra time.”

The last time a football game at UB Stadium was postponed was 2006, when the Buffalo October Storm caused the Bulls’ game against Miami Ohio to be postponed one day from Saturday, Oct. 14 to Sunday, Oct. 15.

Both Buffalo and Kent State will finish the season playing just 11 games. The last time the Bulls played less than 12 games in a season was 2005.

The Bulls’ season ends on Nov. 28 on the road against Massachusetts. Kent State’s season finale against Akron was moved from Tuesday Nov. 25 to Friday Nov. 28.

“Getting a win against UMass will solve everything for us,” Sokoli said.

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