The game that wouldn’t end: UB Bulls lose war of attrition, 71-68 to Western Michigan
The Buffalo Bulls went to war with the Western Michigan Broncos Saturday night in a game that lasted over four and a half hours. The hard-fought battle extended past regulation and lasted seven overtimes, tied for the most in NCAA history.
The teams traded four straight touchdowns to open up overtime, before a Buffalo fumble from the WMU 2-yard line almost jeopardized everything. The Broncos recovered and got the ball to UB’s 12-yard line to set up a 29-yard field goal attempt. Freshman kicker Josh Grant missed his opportunity to be the hero when he kicked the ball to the left of the uprights and kept the Bulls’ hopes alive.
“When we fumbled and they missed the field goal, I kind of stopped and I was like I don't know what’s going on, I don’t know what overtime this is but I’m just happy he missed,” said Bulls sophomore receiver KJ Osborn.
Both teams scored touchdowns on their next three possessions. Osborn came up with two touchdowns on those drives. Both teams converted the two-point conversion on the first touchdown while missing on their next two attempts, extending the game into the seventh overtime.
Buffalo couldn’t capitalize and settled for a field goal to open overtime number seven. Western Michigan put together four straight runs and capped it off with senior running back Jarvion Franklin finding the end zone and ending the game.
The game officially finished with the Western Michigan Broncos (4-2, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) winning 71-68 against the Buffalo Bulls (3-3, 1-1 MAC). Records dropped like flies in this one. The teams combined for the most points in a single-game in FBS history. Buffalo had the most points and yards in program history. Junior quarterback Drew Anderson set a MAC record with 597 passing yards. He tied the MAC record and set the program record with seven touchdowns. It was also the first time UB has had three different receivers with over 100 yards in a game.
“At 53-years-old, I have been through a lot of football games in my career and this is probably the most exciting game I've ever been a part of,” said Bulls head coach Lance Leipold.
The Bulls came in Saturday with a chance to win their fourth straight game, a first for the program since 2013. But the reigning and defending MAC champions were too much for a team that came out with something to prove.
Buffalo was expected to be handled easily by the Broncos. Although the Bulls made some mistakes early, they clearly surprised the Broncos on Saturday.
The teams quickly put 17 points on the board in the first 13 plays of the game.
The Broncos scored first when sophomore running back LeVante Bellamy broke free around the edge for a 66-yard touchdown run on the fourth play from scrimmage. Buffalo attempted to answer back quickly and Anderson completed a 72-yard pass, but senior receiver Kamathi Holsey fumbled the ball and the Broncos returned it 53 yards to set themselves up for a field goal.
The Bulls got back within three after just two plays, when Anderson found Jacob Martinez wide open over the middle. The senior receiver caught a career-long 64-yard touchdown that put Buffalo on the board.
“The plan was to attack the safeties,” Osborn said. “They have two pretty good corners, I know they went down but the plan was definitely to attack the safeties and we did that on [Martinez’s] touchdown and ran it again later.”
The Bulls came back out on the next drive and drove 70 yards down the field. Reed capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown to take the lead for the first time in the game with less than five minutes in the first half.
The Bulls' offense stalled out for the next 20 minutes and proceeded to punt five times, missed a field goal and had the halftime clock run out on them.
The Bulls got back in the groove when Anderson found redshirt junior receiver Anthony Johnson for an 8-yard touchdown. Johnson finished the game with 11 catches for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Osborn finished with seven catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns. Holsey ended the night with six catches for 143 yards and a touchdown.
The receiving corps thrived with Anderson and they all sang his praises after the game.
“When Tyree went down we were confident,” Osborn said. “We knew that the public may not know about Drew but we’ve been saying we have the best backup quarterback in the MAC, we knew drew was going to come in, he throws beautiful balls, he’s smart, he’s a playmaker, we knew he was going to surprise people.”
The defense looked great as they faced 99 plays from the Bronco’s offense. They allowed an average of 6.5 yards per play and 5.5 yards per rush. The unit came up with two interceptions and seven tackles for loss that included a sack.
Junior linebacker Khalil Hodge had his third game with 15-plus tackles in the season and finished with 18. Senior safety Ryan Williamson had 15 tackles in the game and a huge interception when the score was 17-14 that kept the Bulls in contention.
Regardless of the results, Leipold feels this game showed the community how exciting the football team can be.
“You know who I felt sorry for the people who left early,” Leipold said. “I mean tell me someone who has seen a better game. Whether we lost or not, I feel sorry for the people that left.”
The Bulls are back in UB stadium next week as they host the Northern Illinois Huskies (3-2, 1-0 MAC). Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.
Daniel Petruccelli is the Co-Senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org