Top Five UB Sports Moments of the Decade
UB Athletic Director Danny White (right) introduced Hurley as the new men's basketball head coach March 26. Spectrum File Photo
Bulls fans have been on an emotional roller coaster over the past 10 years. There have been highs, lows, heartache, and exuberance.
But above all else, these moments that we've experienced have been memorable.
Whether it was losing on a late tip-in or coming out victorious after a last second Hail Mary, these instances will stay with us – the fans – for the rest of our lives. They help to write the history of UB athletics, and whether you think that subject to be a laughingstock or an improving entity, there's no denying what these moments mean to the campus.
They provided the UB community with the chance to come together as one, and that's not something that happens every day. For those defining moments, we were all Bulls.
Here are the most memorable UB sports moments of the decade:
5. Men's Swimming and Diving Wins 2011 MAC Championship
2011 marked a milestone season for the men's swimming and diving team, as the squad claimed its first-ever Mid-American Conference Championship.
The Bulls put forth a dominant effort all season long, but turned in a performance for the ages at the conference championships at Southern Illinois. There, the Bulls set a MAC Championship record in the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, as the foursome of Simon Proudfoot, Mike Dugan, Jared Heine, and Matt Hogan completed the relay in 2:56.60. The win clinched the MAC crown for the Bulls, and marked the only conference championship for UB athletics in the 2010-11 season.
4. Men's Tennis Wins 2010 Regular Season MAC Championship
Coming off of a 2009 season in which the Bulls recorded just four conference wins, a 2010 MAC title seemed far out of reach. But against all odds, first year head coach Lee Nickell led a Buffalo tennis revival, as the team finished the regular season undefeated in MAC play en route to a 12-5 record and a MAC regular season championship.
The Bulls captured the title on the heels of the program's first win over Ball State, which was their third straight victory and eighth in their last nine matches. Freshman George Tibil extended his team-best MAC record to 5-0 in singles play, while the doubles pairing of senior Kirill Kolomyts and junior Marcelo Mazzetto improved to 5-0 on the season.
3. The Hail Mary
The 2008 football team put together what was perhaps the most memorable season in UB sports history.
However, the shocking revival of the UB football program may not have even happened had it not been for the late-game dramatics on this damp, overcast fall afternoon at UB Stadium.
With the Temple Owls leading the Bulls 28-24 with five seconds remaining in the conference-opener, the Bulls had the ball at the Owls' 36-yard line. Senior quarterback Drew Willy lined up in the shotgun with running back James Starks flanking him in the backfield, and three wide receivers to his right.
The ball was snapped, and Willy dropped back to the 50-yard line in an attempt to buy time for his receivers to break free downfield before launching a pass to the end zone. Surrounded by five Temple defenders, Bulls star wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt went up for the jump ball, and came down with the pigskin for the game-winning touchdown.
The result set off a frenzy at UB Stadium, as students rushed the field, and the marching band belted the Bulls' fight song.
That was the type of season 2008 was. It was magical, memorable, and more than anything, it gave us hope – regardless of how short-lived that optimism proved to be.
2. Men's Basketball loses 2005 MAC Championship to Ohio on Last-Second Tip-In
After a 23-10 regular season, the men's basketball team set the city of Buffalo abuzz in hopes that the Bulls might have enough talent to secure their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in school history.
The Bulls didn't disappoint, as they breezed through the conference tournament before squaring off against Ohio in the MAC Championship game at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena. Buffalo appeared to be on the cusp of history as it built a halftime lead of 10 before expanding the gap to as many as 19 points in the second half.
That's when Ohio made a run. The Bobcats forced overtime, and it was there that the true heartbreak would occur.
With the Bobcats clinging to a 78-77 advantage, senior point guard Turner Battle nailed a jumper to give the Bulls the lead with 11.5 seconds remaining in overtime. The basket gave Bulls fans who made the trip one last opportunity to bask in March Madness glory.
But with no timeouts remaining, Ohio pushed the ball up court before Jeremy Fears got off a tough layup with two seconds remaining. The ball bounced off the rim and into the outstretched hands of Ohio's Leon Williams, who promptly tipped the ball in as time expired.
The Bulls have been to only one MAC championship game since, when they lost to Akron in 2009.
1. Bulls Defeat Ball State and Win MAC Football Championship
The 2008 MAC championship game had David versus Goliath written all over it. The Ball State Cardinals entered the game ranked 12th in the nation, and their hopes for a BCS bowl game were still very much alive – assuming they could knock off the upstart Buffalo Bulls.
But Buffalo had destiny on its side. Perennial losers, the Bulls had marched through the 2008 season on the heels of phenomenal quarterback play out of senior Drew Willy, while junior James Starks put fear into his opponents' hearts with his uncanny ability to run the football. Their success caught the country off guard, as the Bulls hadn't recorded a winning record since moving to Division-IA in 1999.
Now here they were at Detroit's Ford Field after a 7-5 season, with just one win standing between them and their first MAC title in school history. The Bulls had won just 10 games in seven seasons combined before head coach Turner Gill took over in 2006.
But with the odds stacked against them, the Bulls put their school and the city of Buffalo on their backs.
With the Cardinals ahead 17-14 late in the third quarter, Ball State's star quarterback Nate Davis attempted to take the ball himself and run it in for a score. Instead, Davis was stuffed at the goal line, as Bulls cornerback Josh Thomas knocked the ball loose before fellow corner Mike Newton picked it up and ran it back 92 yards for a game-changing touchdown. It was a lead the Bulls wouldn't relinquish.
The win earned the Bulls an invitation to the International Bowl, where they would go on to lose to the University of Connecticut Huskies.
The Bulls' winning ways didn't last long, as a year later Turner Gill jumped ship for the head coaching job in Kansas, Drew Willy graduated, and James Starks moved onto NFL stardom.
Regardless, the 2008 football season will forever hold a place in Buffalo sports lore as the greatest underdog story this city has ever witnessed. The Bulls of 2008 reminded us how a championship-caliber team can change the attitude and self-conception of an entire campus and its surrounding community, and for that, Bulls fans will always be thankful.
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