Disappointing Season Ends in Typical Fashion
The longest losing streak in college football this season was snapped last Friday afternoon.
However, the Bulls' (2-10, 1-7 Mid-American Conference) skid will continue into next season.
Buffalo fell 17 yards short of sending its seniors out with a come-from-behind victory in their final game of the season. Akron (1-11, 1-7 MAC), losers of their previous 11 games, bested the Bulls, 22-14, extending Buffalo's losing streak to seven.
"It's a very disappointing way to end a year that has been up and down, and certainly it's a terrible feeling that I have, our coaches have, and all of our players have," said Bulls head coach Jeff Quinn. "You put a lot of time and effort into playing this great game, and you expect to be rewarded with a sense of accomplishment in winning, and if you don't, it hurts."
The game seemed all but over before sophomore quarterback Jerry Davis got the Bulls going late in the fourth quarter.
With 2:44 remaining in the game, Davis orchestrated a 71-yard drive, which ended when freshman wide receiver Alex Neutz caught an 18-yard touchdown pass to bring the Bulls within eight points.
Neutz finished the game with five catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns. The strong effort capped off a solid first season for the young receiver. In the final two games of the season, Neutz seemed to develop a rapport with Davis as he racked up 200 yards on 12 receptions.
On the ensuing kickoff, senior kicker A.J. Principe gave the Bulls life when his onside kick was recovered by freshman defensive back Okoye Houston at the Bulls 38-yard line.
"We had a two minute [offense] going," Neutz said. "Quick plays, the defense was caught off guard, so we were able to capitalize on short passes and big passes, and the onside kick was a momentum booster."
Davis led another drive down the field, putting the Bulls in position to tie the game. However, with just over a minute remaining, Davis went back to pass and was flushed from the pocket, causing him to fumble the ball. Akron recovered and ran out the clock to hold on for the victory.
"These kids have played hard; they've given effort," Quinn said. "Again the turnovers hurt us, the penalties, the missed tackles, all the things that can get you beat in this game. You just can't afford to make those mistakes and come out and win in the Mid-American Conference."
The loss marked the end of the road for the senior class, a group that has helped the program reach heights it has never seen before.
With eight tackles in the game, senior safety Davonte Shannon became the program's all-time leading tackler. Shannon finished his career with 461 total tackles, breaking the 14-year old record of 455 held by former Bulls great Craig Guest. He is also the career leader in solo tackles with 258.
"It's tough not being able to win the last game that you will ever play as a senior," Shannon said. "I cherish every moment I had out there, every play, every opportunity I had to play out there with these fellas in the locker room. I love every single one of them… It's been a fun ride."
Among the seniors playing in their final game was running back Ike Nduka, whose 88 rushing yards against the Zips is the most by a Bulls back all season. Like Shannon, Nduka is grateful for his time spent in blue and white.
"I'm sad," Nduka said. "A lot of these guys are like my brothers, a lot of them look up to me, and I look up to a lot of them. We inspire each other."
With two extra points in the game, Principe finished his career with the most points scored in school history. The senior totaled 265 points in his four years with the Bulls.
Since winning their first conference game in early October against Bowling Green (2-10, 1-7 MAC), the Bulls losing streak has left a bad taste in the mouth of Quinn at the end of his first season with the team.
"I want these young men to understand this is unacceptable and that this isn't good enough," Quinn said. "We're not going to go through this again. You have got to work hard, you have to be more determined, and you have to come together in order for you to win football games."