On the force of two back-to-back goals by senior Bill Norberg, the men's soccer team orchestrated an enormous upset of the Marshall Thundering Herd Friday night, defeating them 3-2 in front of 75 freezing fans at RAC Field.
Marshall came into the game in first place in the Mid-American Conference, and ranked 23rd in the nation.
"It was crazy, it was so intense," said Norberg. "I was just running on adrenaline."
Both of Norberg's goals were scored from direct shots off fouls, hitting the top left portion of the net.
Norberg raced through the defense, and was tripped up to draw a foul. He was given a direct shot, which hit the post and banked in.
Less than a minute later, Norberg charged back up the field and was fouled once more. His second shot, a high floater, went over the wall, past the goalie, and into the net.
"The first one, there was a gap in the wall, and it got a lucky bounce from the post," said Norberg. "The second, the goalie was giving me the entire near post."
The win improves Buffalo's overall record to 4-4-1 (1-2 MAC) and served to snap a three-game losing streak, giving them their first Mid-American Conference victory of the season. Friday's contest also marked the first time the Bulls have ever defeated the Herd.
Marshall opened up scoring early in the game on a goal by Rob Clouse, assisted by Firas Al-Samarraie at the 20:57 mark.
The Bulls upped their offense, and Norberg's two goals gave the Bulls the lead.
Buffalo's third score came on a pass play from sophomore Mike Gellar to sophomore Patrick Beckley.
"I saw Pat open in the middle there, fed him the ball, he used his wheels and put it in," said Gellar.
Marshall kept the game close on a goal by Chris Donnovan, assisted by Brent Sobczak at the 59:15 mark to pull within one.
The Bulls, however, maintained their defense, keeping their midfielders and defensemen conservative to retain the lead and secure the win.
Goaltending was also a key to deciding the match, as keeper Brian Wozniak tallied four saves. Jeremy Williams countered with three saves for the Herd.
Wozniak left the game when he was struck in the face by a Marshall player's errant elbow after a goal was ruled invalid due to an offside call. He returned later and made three key saves in the closing minutes despite having received five stitches. His replacement, Chris Vavrina, tallied a save and allowed no goals in his absence.
"I guess their guy felt the need to take a cheap shot," said Norberg. "We're both very physical teams."
The incident earned Marshall's Robert Ngumire a red card, not a surprise in a game that featured a total of eight yellow cards and several small scuffles.
"We're no saints," laughed Bulls Head Coach John Astudillo. "We match them tackle for tackle."
"I think the refs felt like they were losing control of the game, so they brought the cards out a lot," said Gellar. "There's gonna be some cheap stuff."
The weather contributed to the game's unruly atmosphere. Players slipped constantly, sliding and falling into each other on checks and tackles.
Before Friday's loss, Marshall had been thundering on a seven-game winning streak, and was ranked 23rd in the nation according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Top 25 poll. The loss was only their second of the season, and drops their overall record to a still-impressive 8-2 (2-1 MAC).
Astudillo prepared his players well in advance for such a daunting adversary.
"I told the players to commit themselves to defense," he said. "[We had to] defend to get opportunities, and it worked to perfection."
UB held Marshall to two goals, bettering their season average of 3.2 goals per game. The Bulls had to face All-American Byron Carmichael, who leads the division in goals with 13, and points with 29. Friday night, he went scoreless.
"They've got the best scorer in the nation and we - rather, Joe Peplinski - shut him down," said Astudillo. "He matched him step for step. - He played great."
Buffalo had been in a scoring drought, failing to score in their last three games, but found its rhythm in Friday's contest.
"A lot of it is patience by the guys, if they see a good shot, they take it," added Astudillo. "I was afraid they were going to make a horse race out of it. - That's one thing I'm most proud of: they were very disciplined tonight."
The Bulls' next game is Oct. 14 at the University of Kentucky.
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