Lester pesters Western
Sophomore cornerback sets school record, helps lead Bulls to victory on senior day
Published: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Updated: Sunday, November 11, 2012 12:11
The football team’s defense has struggled all season to force turnovers, posting a -12 turnover margin. The Bulls remedied the problem on Saturday when Western Michigan (4-7, 2-5 Mid-American Conference) came to UB Stadium.
Sophomore cornerback Cortney Lester snagged three of Alex Carder’s four interceptions, a new Division I-A school record, to help lead the Bulls (3-7, 2-4 MAC) to a 29-24 victory. His final interception was the crucial one, as Western Michigan tried to drive for a game-winning touchdown with 1:12 remaining but Lester ended the drive on its first play.
“All the credit really has to go to [defensive coordinator] Lou Tepper and [cornerbacks coach] Maurice Linguist because they put us in position to take away what [teams] do,” Lester said. “When you set goals you don’t achieve, it kind of makes you want it even more. So for us to keep continuing to take away the ball and do what we know we can, it feels good.”
Although the Bulls defeated the Broncos, they lost two key players. Junior running back Branden Oliver suffered an ankle injury late in first quarter after rushing for 75 yards and scoring on an 18-yard scamper.
Freshman Devin Campbell, who has filled in numerous times this season for Oliver, had no problem carrying the load. He thrashed Western Michigan and its fourth-ranked rushing defense in the MAC for 104 yards and a touchdown, but he suffered an injury early in the fourth quarter. Campbell left the field with assistance and moments later left the stadium on a stretcher.
It was a somber moment in an otherwise great night for the Bulls.
“We saw great things from the offensive side, defensive side and special teams,” said head coach Jeff Quinn. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way our kids really embraced all three areas and came out big today. You know it’s always tough because we had two offensive players [hurt], Devin Campbell, Bo Oliver – I don’t know what their status is.”
After displaying the ground game, the Bulls wasted no time exploiting a struggling secondary. Freshman Joe Licata continued his success in his second career start, completing 21 of 31 attempts for 285 yards and a touchdown. Licata’s lone touchdown pass came in the fourth quarter when he found junior wide receiver Alex Neutz for a 30-yard touchdown.
He is now 2-0 since taking over as the Bulls’ starter.
“He was just as confident as he was last week,” Neutz said. “Joe’s been preparing for this his whole life. He had a great career in high school, he’s got a great offensive line in front of him and he has great playmakers on the outside. He has confidence in himself and that’s what you look for in the quarterback position.”
Licata helped generate three scoring drives on the Bulls’ first eight possessions, putting up 17 unanswered points before Carder found receiver Eric Monnette in the end zone from 17 yards out for the Broncos’ first score.
The win could not have come on a better day, as the Bulls said farewell to their seniors.
Senior defensive end Steven Means, who over the course of his four-year career has accumulated 159 total tackles and 15.5 sacks, had goals of making one last run at a MAC Championship. Though that goal is now unattainable, he has no regrets.
“My heart, my soul, all my blood, sweat and tears on this field from No. 40 Steven Means, forever a UB Bull,” Means said. “I want to thank this team, the coaching staff and all you guys for allowing me to leave this field happy.”
The Bulls will hope to extend their two-game winning streak as they travel to Foxboro, Mass. next weekend to take on UMass (1-9, 1-5 MAC). The Minutemen are coming off their first win in FBS history against the Akron Zips (1-10, 0-7 MAC). Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.