A win on the scoreboard, but a missed opportunity for the program
UB’s embarrassing performance vs. Stony Brook falls on head coach Jeff Quinn
Published: Saturday, September 14, 2013
Updated: Saturday, September 14, 2013 21:09
The Bulls proved in Week One they have the talent to compete with the best in Division I. They proved Saturday they have the coaching to blow a game against an FCS team.
Buffalo (1-2) eked out a win, 26-23 in quintuple overtime, against Stony Brook. It might have been the least satisfying win I have ever seen. UB came dangerously close to falling to 0-3 – with a loss to a subdivision team, at that – in a season in which pundits had predicted the Bulls had a shot at winning the Mid-American Conference.
To capture the true devastation of Saturday’s ugly performance, however, you had to take in the scenery at UB Stadium before kickoff.
I was shocked to see how many students attended the home opener. Blues Traveler played in the first Tailgate Series concert before the game, and red Solo cups abounded. It felt like a real college football atmosphere, which I’ve never experienced in three years at UB Stadium.
It was exciting.
Head coach Jeff Quinn said he had never seen anything like it at UB, either.
“No, that was the best crowd,” Quinn said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way people came in today. It was a great atmosphere, great environment, and that’s what we’ve got to continue to do. I think people got a glimpse of what we can do here.”
The pre-game emotion was long forgotten in overtime, after the Seawolves had marched down the field with less than two minutes remaining in regulation and scored a touchdown to tie the game at 10.
Let’s be clear: Stony Brook should have won this game. An easy botched field goal in the fourth OT kept the Bulls in it after Buffalo tried to hand the game over multiple times. It wasn’t that the Seawolves were that good; it was that UB was that bad.
This was an ugly one.
I know senior running back Branden Oliver didn’t play, but anyone who attended can tell you this was a disaster of a ballgame, and it’s sad because it was a disaster UB couldn’t afford.
As the saying goes, “don’t talk about it; be about it.” Don’t talk about being a solid football program; be a solid football program, and that starts with winning games you’re supposed to win.
Saturday could have been a momentous, groundbreaking day for UB Athletics – one that made us proud to call the University at Buffalo our institution, one that proved our athletic department could at least start to emulate the Ohio States of the world. Before UB’s season opener in Columbus, I remember stopping in awe to take in the mass of raucous fans packing Ohio Stadium. It was electrifying.
I thought, Wow, if the Bulls could do something like this … it’d be like a different world for college football in Buffalo. I was giddy with merely the thought.
There were promising signs before Saturday’s game, but Buffalo needed to win big to continue the momentum. People in Western New York, and students in particular, are hesitant to embrace this team. When they finally filled the stands Saturday, they needed to be given reason to stick around, and they didn’t get it.
The talent level on this year’s squad is extraordinary, but the fans that wandered in Saturday probably left the game thinking it’s the same old Bulls.
And they might not be so far off. Stony Brook entered ranked 13th in FCS football, so we knew the Seawolves were pretty good, but are they compete-with-a-D1-conference-contender good?
This should have been an easy win for UB.
Even the past three years, in which the Bulls have finished a combined 9-27, they’ve throttled their traditional cupcake FCS opponent at home (31-0 vs. Rhode Island in 2010; 35-7 vs. Stony Brook in 2011; 56-34 vs. Morgan State in 2012).
The Bulls sure didn’t look like a conference contender Saturday, and the reason for that was coaching.
People love action; they crave entertainment. Quinn needed to interest fans to ensure they would come back.
He has talked about wanting a big-time atmosphere for years. He has talked about what it was like at Cincinnati, where he was the offensive coordinator, having students pack the stands and give their team a dramatic advantage over road opponents.
Athletic Director Danny White is on board with Quinn’s vision, and as much as I have taken issue with some of White’s methods, his dream of filling seats seems to be working, given Saturday’s attendance of 24,014 – the third-largest crowd in UB Stadium history.
But then the game started.
Quinn’s far-too-safe, predictable play-calling almost lured me to sleep, and it certainly put off the majority of fans; the once-imposing crowd had thinned to its usual miniscule size by the fourth quarter. As one stadium worker said when I took the elevator during the third quarter, “Someone needs to light a fire under their butts.”
I couldn’t have put it more aptly.
Where is the fire? The talent is there. Where is the coaching?
Throwing the entire first half and running all of second doesn’t keep your opponent off balance; mixing it up does. Predictability is boring. It’s like life: If you do the same thing over and over, eventually, no one is going to care.
How about a couple trick plays? The Bulls tried one, and it was one of the biggest plays of the game. With 6:20 remaining in the third quarter, with UB up 3-0 and having just recovered a muffed punt at Stony Brook’s 27-yard line, Joe Licata threw behind the line of scrimmage to tight end Mason Schreck, who threw to receiver Devin Campbell for a 23-yard gain.