UB Bulls’ season ends with 31-26 loss to Massachusetts
Buffalo ineligible for bowl game with 5-7 record
With two minutes remaining in the Buffalo football team’s season Friday, Joe Licata dreamed of the “fairy tale story” – leading his team down the field for a game-winning touchdown to become bowl eligible in his final game at UB Stadium.
But Licata’s pass went off went off the hands of wide-open junior tight end Mason Schreck and into the hands of Minutemen linebacker Da’Sean Downey.
“It’s a sad way to end but in many ways it’s kind of a nutshell of a lot of parts of our season,” said head coach Lance Leipold. “Our consistent inconsistency.”
The Bulls’ (5-7, 3-5 Mid-American Conference) season ended with a 31-26 loss to Massachusetts (3-9, 2-6 MAC) at a rainy and windy UB Stadium Friday, as Buffalo ended its season with three straight losses and is ineligible for a bowl games with only five wins. The game also marked the final UB appearance for many impact seniors like Licata.
Massachusetts freshman running back Marquis Young ran for a career-high 240 yards and three touchdowns. Buffalo allowed 295 yards on the day. Young ran for 215 of his yards in the first half, as the Bulls were able to contain him in the second half.
“We didn’t have an answer until the second half but at that point we dug ourselves too deep a hole to come out of,” said senior linebacker Nick Gilbo.
Buffalo pulled the game within two points, 28-26, with a five-yard touchdown run by junior running back Jordan Johnson at the start of the fourth quarter. The touchdown, Johnson’s 12th of the season, was set up by a nice 30-yard hookup between junior wide receiver Marcus McGill and Licata the play before.
The Bulls tried a trick play that failed on the two-point attempt that would have tied the game. Licata pretended to make adjustments at the line, while Johnson took a direct snap and tossed an end around to McGill. McGill then threw an incomplete pass as he was tackled.
Massachusetts kicked a field goal to take the 31-26 lead with 2:13 left. Licata was then intercepted on the next drive.
Massachusetts got out to an early 14-0 lead with two touchdown runs from Young, but Buffalo responded to score 17 unanswered points. The end of the first half would then get disastrous for the Bulls, resulting in a 28-17 halftime deficit.
After Young ran for his third touchdown of the game to make it a 21-17 game, Licata brought Buffalo down to the Minutemen’s 4-yard line. Massachusetts defensive back Trey Dudley-Giles intercepted Licata’s pass to the end zone, and the team would then march down the field for a drive that ended in a 14-yard touchdown run by quarterback Mark Frohnapfel.
Licata finished 19 of 40 for 287 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in his final UB game. The quarterback finishes his career as UB’s all-time touchdown leader (76) and passing yards leader (9,485).
Johnson and senior running back Anthone Taylor both combined to rush for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Both running backs ran for more than 800 yards on the season. Johnson figures to have Buffalo’s backfield all to himself as a workhorse back next season with Taylor’s graduation.
Licata said the game was frustrating considering it was the last time he and his fellow seniors “played in the blue and white.” Taylor was in shock that he had played his final game as a Bull.
“I wasn’t expecting this to be the last one,” Taylor said. “I just felt like this couldn’t be the last one. I expected to play another game.”
Leipold, who went 109-6 in Division III and finishes his first season in Division I 5-7, said the season did not meet his expectations.
“I’m never satisfied anyway,” Leipold said. “Not taking advantage of opportunities at certain times and all those things and that has to be a vocal point of what we’re gonna do in the future.”