One Last Look Through the Tunnel
Bulls Seniors Try to Stay Focused on Winning Third Straight
Running back Derrick "Flash" Gordon eats raw onions before a game. Quarterback Joe Freedy reads Psalm 91, twice, once before the game and once at halftime.
Gordon, Freedy and 19 other men will perform their rituals for the last time - at least before a college football game, that is - when the UB Bulls' (3-7, 1-6 Mid-American Conference) seniors play the final game of their careers Saturday against Akron (2-7, 2-4 MAC) at 1 p.m. in UB Stadium.
Safety Craig Rohlfs, normally a quote machine for the local media, was left speechless for quite possibly the first time this year when asked about his thoughts going into Saturday's contest.
"I almost don't know what to say; I almost wish I had another year left," he said, perhaps caught a little off guard by the question. "It's like it's not really happening, I don't know what is next after the game is over with. I'm kind of disappointed that it's ending, but in a way it's kind of exciting."
Other UB seniors have tried to go about the week as they normally would, attempting to save the nostalgia for what will obviously be an emotional locker room after the game.
"I try to think about it, but I don't want to think about it," defensive end Chris Shelly said. "I will probably only think about it right before the game and right after the game. That will be the moments where it will hit me the most."
"There is nothing about a last game that feels like a last game to me," Freedy said. "There's no time to sit and reflect about it. I'm really not looking at the last game thing at all. I'm just concentrating on it like its any other game."
The Bulls have won two-straight games, beating Ohio and Army, and are looking to win two-straight conference games at home for this first time since joining the Mid-American Conference in 1999.
The season will serve as a stepping-stone for the program, allowing UB to brag to potential recruits about an organization that is on the rise. A victory on Saturday would double the Bulls' win total from last year.
"I think the season next year is going to be a lot better," Rohlfs said. "Our team is going to be pretty good. We are laying down the foundation. There are more games to be won."
"I can't wait to be able to come back for Homecoming and the other games and see UB winning a ton of games and see us with a huge crowd in the stands," Freedy said. "I'm going to come back as much as I can to see these guys play."
Buffalo will face a physical, but not extremely talented, Akron squad. The Zips will certainly be hungry, however - the team is on a five-game losing streak after starting the season 2-2.
The Bulls will have to focus on bottling up Zips quarterback (and red-shirt freshman) Charlie Frye.
"Akron likes to run a lot of misdirection, they like to roll out the passer," Shelly said. "They have a pretty big offensive line. One of the things we have to deal with is containing the boot."
Offensively, the Bulls will face another eight-man front, similar to last week's game at Army. Expect Buffalo to try to establish the run early, then go to spread formation to stretch the Zips' defense across the field, a strategy that worked against the Black Knights.
"We have to find a way to make that eight-man front not an eight-man front," Bulls head coach Jim Hofher said. "Its very hard to swim upstream. How can we part those waters a little bit so that we can run the football?"
A head coach for eight years at Cornell, Hofher has said goodbye to many seniors in the past. He will say goodbye to a senior class for the ninth time on Saturday, but will not address the subject with them until after the contest.
"We need a great week of preparation," Hofher said. "You will have a lifetime to be wistful and think about your locker, your helmet, the smell and the stands. It will feel a whole lot better if we play that game well enough to be able to win it."
"I think [Hofher] was smart in saying that we can't get caught up in the hype of it being our last game," Freedy said. "It takes the focus off of what you need to do in the ball game."
How do these warriors of the gridiron plan to spend their remaining college days after there are no more battles to be fought?
"Become a real student," Shelly said. "I don't know what that's like, so it will probably be some sort of culture shock."
"Sit on the couch," joked Freedy.
"I really haven't thought about my future past this semester so I'm going to take a lot of time and probably do a lot of interviewing for jobs and opportunities after college."
Dallas Pelz was once again earned MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his perfect, four field goal performance last week that included a career-high 50-yarder. Pelz won the award previously after making three of three field goals in a game at Connecticut earlier this season.