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Friday, September 22, 2023
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Eagles Fourth-Quarter Trick Dupes Bulls 24-20

In the spirit of the season, the Bulls felt like they had received a special Halloween treat when Joe Freedy's pass intended for Dan Lindsay deflected off Lindsay's fingertips and ricocheted directly into the waiting arms of Maurice Bradford. Bradford caught the ball in stride and ran a clear path into the end zone to give the Bulls a commanding 20-10 lead with 3:27 left in the third quarter.

After Freedy's last-gasp desperation heave intended for Matt Knueven glanced off Knueven's fingertips and fell harmlessly out of bounds with only eight seconds remaining, the Bulls (1-7, 0-5 MAC) must have felt like Michael Myers had just driven a stake through the team's heart.

No defeat is particularly appetizing, but Saturday's 24-20 loss to Eastern Michigan (2-5, 1-2 MAC) had all the flavor of getting a toothbrush and a case of Johnson and Johnson dental floss in your trick-or-treat bag.

The Eagles stormed back to score 14 unanswered fourth-quarter points and thwarted the Bulls' final drive at the Eagles' 31-yard line to come home with a big bag of sweet victory.

"We did a nice job for three quarters; I'm not so sure the fourth quarter was ours. In fact, I'm convinced it was not. It's disappointing to come up and compete as hard as we competed and not come up with a victory," said Bulls Head Coach Jim Hofher.

Trailing 20-10, freshman quarterback Kainoa Akina threw a 14-yard touchdown strike to Chris Archie on 3rd and 7 to pull the Eagles within three. On the play, Akina lofted a pass to Archie, who was alone in the end zone. Cornerback Mike Lambert was the closest Bull, but it was unclear whose assignment Archie was on the play.

After a Bulls drive stalled at the EMU 47, the Eagles took over at their own 17-yard line. On Roberson's second carry of the drive, he ran through a mammoth hole on the right-hand side for a 40-yard gain, putting the ball at the Bulls 40. Safety Youdlain Marcellus tracked down Roberson to prevent the touchdown, but was only delaying the inevitable.

Chris Roberson dashed in from 16 yards out to cap off a 5-play, 83-yard drive that give the Eagles the lead with 8:23 left in the fourth. Roberson rushed four times for 69 yards on the drive against a paper thin Bulls run defense that was weakened by the loss of tackle Bob Dzvonick. After Dzvonick went out with a knee injury, Roberson ran wild, gaining 99 yards in the second half alone. For the day, he carried 19 times for 154 yards, a gargantuan 8.1 yards per carry.

"They ran the ball extremely well on the day. That was probably the key to our victory, and the key to our defeat," said Hofher.

The Bulls had a couple of opportunities to reclaim the lead, taking two drives into Eagle territory in the final quarter.

After advancing to the Eagles' 37, the Bulls were faced with a critical 4th and 9 with 5:37 left on the clock, and two of their timeouts remaining. Hofher elected to punt the ball, in the hopes that the defense would be able to get it back in good field position and with time remaining.

It didn't happen.

The Eagles converted two straight third downs to move the ball out of the shadow of their end zone to their own 34. More importantly, they chewed up 4 minutes and 30 seconds on the clock and forced the Bulls to burn their final two timeouts.

Craig Rohlfs had a nice 14-yard return to give the Bulls a solid field position at their 44, but the offense had only 57 seconds to work with. Freedy drove the Bulls 25 yards, but the drive stalled at the 31 with only 25 seconds remaining.

On first down, Freedy spiked the ball to stop the clock. On second down, Freedy threw a pass to favorite target Chad Bartoszek. Bartoszek led all receivers on the day with 6 catches for 30 yards. Freedy's choice of receivers was not surprising, the pattern was. Bartoszek hauled in the pass - for 0 yards.

Bartoszek was able to get out of bounds on the play, but the Bulls were then faced with 3rd and 10. Freedy's pass to Bradford fell incomplete in the end zone, and his final heave to Knueven glanced off the receiver's fingertips and out of harms way.

The Bulls were able to establish a running game early and keep Roberson in check. Marquis Dwarte had an excellent first half, rushing for 60 yards on 11 carries. He also scored the Bulls' first touchdown. On 3rd and goal from the 11, Dwarte caught a screen pass out in the flat. Cornerback Erick Middleton read the play well and appeared to be in position to stop the play well short of the goal line. Dwarte threw Middleton a move that would have made the Fonz jealous, and crossed the goal line with Middleton in his wake to tie the game at 10, midway through the second quarter.

As the game wore on, Dwarte's performance weakened while Roberson got stronger. After rushing for 60 yards on 11 carries in the first half, Dwarte was held in check for the rest of the contest. Dwarte netted only 9 yards on 11 carries in the second half.

"They adjusted to what we were doing at the half. They executed their run-stopping defense a little better than we executed our run offense in the second," said Dwarte.

Maurice Bradford had a career day, besting the 100-yard plateau for the first time, including the 44-yard touchdown strike. "Basically, Freedy threw it, it tipped off Dan's hands. I just caught it and was gone," said Bradford.

The Bulls return home next Saturday afternoon to face conference foe Ohio University at 1 p.m. Saturday's strong showing left little doubt that their day will eventually come , and that a conference win awaits. For the majority of the game, we were tricked into thinking that day was last Saturday.



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