Bulls drop thrilling matchup on botched extra point
After a memorable comeback on Saturday, a missed field goal by kicker Peter Fardon (13) cost the Bulls a chance at overtime against NIU. Meg Kinsley /// The Spectrum
UB Stadium was in complete pandemonium on Saturday afternoon. Thanks to the mind-boggling play of senior quarterback Chazz Anderson, the football team mounted a tantalizing 20-point fourth quarter comeback to tie the game at 31 and send it to overtime.
All the Bulls (2-6, 1-3 Mid-American Conference) needed was that 21st point. All they needed was an extra point.
Senior kicker Peter Fardon couldn't convert.
The biggest play of Saturday's gut-wrenching loss occurred while most fans were busy celebrating a three-yard touchdown pass from Anderson to senior wide receiver Ed Young. With 14 seconds remaining, Fardon hooked the potential game-tying extra point wide left, sending his team to a 31-30 loss to MAC opponent Northern Illinois (5-3, 3-1 MAC).
"I let my teammates, coaches, the university and the fans down," Fardon said. "I have a job to do and I didn't do it, and it's inexcusable. It's just something that I'm going to have to live with now."
The Bulls were down 31-10 in the fourth quarter and the game appeared to be easily in the Huskies' hands. But Anderson dazzled the crowd, leading a massive comeback and a last-minute touchdown-scoring drive.
"Nobody felt worse than Pete," said head coach Jeff Quinn. "You've got to stick by them and keep believing in these young men. I said, ‘Pete, you're going to get a chance again. So hang in there, buddy.'"
Anderson completed 35-of0-3 passes for 404 yards and three interceptions, setting school records in completions and yardage and easily outplaying Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish.
Harnish – a dual-threat quarterback and one of the best players in the conference – was held in check by the Buffalo defense. He was limited to 150 passing yards and 68 rushing yards on the day. He only found the end zone once. One week ago, Harnish passed for 203 yards and ran for 229.
The Buffalo defense came up huge against a Northern Illinois offense that totaled 697 yards last week, holding the Huskies to only 328 yards on the day. In opposition, Buffalo racked up 572.
"I found that I have a football team that's going to fight, and I was very proud of them," Quinn said.
The Bulls nearly swept the stat sheet, but there was one major area of disparity: turnovers.
While Buffalo has struggled in almost every facet of the game so far this year, the team has been extremely consistent in holding onto the football. The Bulls had only lost one fumble when they entered Saturday's matchup against Northern Illinois.
Now it's safe to say the Bulls are struggling in every facet.
Buffalo fumbled five times – losing three – and gave away two interceptions.
The Bulls knew their squad would be altered when special teams ace Terrell Jackson went down to injury last week and was ruled doubtful for the remainder of the year. Just how seriously Buffalo would be altered, however, few expected.
Three muffed punts (Jackson is one of the best punt returners in the MAC) assisted in Buffalo's downward spiral on Saturday.
The UB Stadium crowd of 13,370 cheered loudly and sarcastically in the third quarter when sophomore wide receiver Devon Hughes successfully fair-caught a punt. It was the first time all day the Bulls hadn't fumbled when Northern Illinois punted. On the Huskies' first three punts, senior wide receiver Ed Young fumbled twice and freshman cornerback Courtney Lester fumbled once.
Buffalo was down 31-10 with 13 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but sophomore receiver Alex Neutz – who finished with a career-high 135 yards on nine catches – caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Anderson to narrow Buffalo's gap to 31-17.
It looked like the game was over soon after, when Anderson threw an interception, but Buffalo quickly got the ball back and drove down the field, resulting in a 15-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Marcus Rivers.
From there, it just took one more stop and Buffalo had the ball back. The Bulls took over with 2:49 remaining and Anderson would not be denied, ferociously leading his offense down the field and ultimately hitting Young on third-and-goal.
"We scored at will [in the fourth quarter]," Neutz said. "Like I've said before, we're a dangerous team and once we get started, nobody can slow us down."
The Bulls scored 20 of their 30 points in the fourth quarter. The early part of this ballgame belonged to the defenses.
Standout sophomore running back Branden Oliver didn't find the end zone on Saturday, but he still put up impressive numbers, finishing with 101 rushing yards on 26 carries and 68 receiving yards on six catches.
With four games remaining, time is quickly winding down on the careers of Anderson and the other seniors.
"I said to the quarterback group at the end: ‘I will continue to give you all I've got because I've only got four [games left],'" Anderson said.
The Bulls' next chance to get back in the win column will come next week at Miami (Ohio) as Buffalo will take on the RedHawks (2-5, 1-1 MAC).
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