UB Bulls drop opening game to Albany 22-16
Turnovers, sloppy play cost Bulls season opener in stunning upset
With four minutes remaining in Friday’s season opener for Buffalo’s football team, freshman quarterback Tyree Jackson appeared to be on the verge of a Hollywood moment in his first career game.
With the Bulls trailing 22-16, and facing a fourth down-and-six on the eight-yard line of visiting Albany, Jackson scrambled toward the right sideline and made a dive for the pylon, hoping to put Buffalo ahead. But Albany sophomore safety Mason Gray was able to knock the ball out of his hands and it rolled out of the back of the end zone, resulting in a touchback and possession for Albany.
“It’s a great effort play, I can’t fault that at all, going and trying to get a win,” said head coach Lance Leipold after the game.
The Great Danes (1-0) stunned the Bulls (0-1) 22-16 on Friday night, handing Buffalo its first home opener loss since 2009 in front of a crowd of 18,657 at UB Stadium. The Bulls outgained Albany 403-238 in total offense, but were undone by four turnovers, including two each by senior quarterback Grant Rohach, who started the game, and Jackson, who finished it.
“We didn’t lose the game because of Jackson and we didn’t lose it because of Rohach, we lost as a football team” Leipold said. “[We made] way too many mistakes tonight.”
Senior running back Jordan Johnson had 23 carries for 114 yards in the game and Buffalo’s defense for the most part did its job despite the loss.
Senior cornerback Boise Ross, one of Buffalo’s leaders defensively, was suspended for the first game due to a violation of team rules.
Albany was led by sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman who completed 67 percent of his passes for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Great Danes defense also received standout performances from Maryland graduate transfer linebacker Abner Logan who had 11 tackles and a pass breakup and seemed to be involved in almost every play. Senior linebacker Michael Nicastro also made an impact with 11 tackles and an interception.
Rohach started the game for Buffalo and struggled most of the way, throwing an interception to Nicastro on his first career pass as a Bull. He was picked off a second time later in the first quarter as the offensive line struggled to pass protect.
With 5:35 remaining in the second quarter, Leipold brought in Jackson, who was in as quarterback for the rest of the game.
Following Jackson’s fumble at the goal line late in the fourth quarter, Buffalo’s defense forced a three-and-out, putting the ball back in Jackson’s hands with 2:44 on the clock and a chance to win the game, but he was picked off on the first play of the drive, effectively ending the game.
“At the end of the day it’s football, they came out and I can’t take anything away from them, they beat us,” Jackson said. “But the season is 12 games, it’s not one, so this loss isn’t gonna define us and we’re gonna go out and prepare on this bye week and come back better.”
Both quarterbacks struggled. Rohach went 3-9 for 52 yards and two interceptions. Jackson was 14-25 for 125 yards and a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 60 yards on 10 carries.
After the game, Leipold wouldn’t commit to a quarterback going forward.
“I’m not in any position right now to comment how were moving forward with that,” Leipold said. “One guy turned the ball over earlier in the game and one turned the ball over twice late in the game”
After a week off, the Bulls travel to the Clarence Mackay Stadium on Sept. 17 to take on Nevada. Kickoff is scheduled for 9 p.m.
Daniel Petruccelli is a sports staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org