Tony Daniel stood outside the University at Buffalo locker room with an ice pack pressed against his upper lip, a battle scar from a play that transformed from misfortune to success in an instant.
In the fourth quarter with the game tied at 17, sophomore kicker Patrick Clarke set up for a 50-yard field goal attempt but Marcus McGill’s snap was low and Daniel was left scrambling. With RedHawks cornerback D.J. Brown draped all over him, Daniel completed a 10-yard pass to tight end Alex Dennison to preserve the drive and a roughing the passer penalty moved the ball to the Miami 11.
The Bulls took the lead on a Joe Licata touchdown pass to Fred Lee and the Bulls held on to win, 27-24, on Saturday at UB Stadium.
“I didn’t get to see the end of the play, I just took a shot toward the end,” Daniel said. “I just heard the crowd cheer but that’s cool with me. I’ll take a shot for that if we get the first down. Joe took us down and threw a touchdown and I got to go back out there for the PAT which is fine with me. I like that a lot better.”
There’s a designed play triggered whenever there’s a botched play on a field goal attempt and, perhaps luckily for UB, Miami snuffed out the play quickly.
Daniel was supposed to find one of his two outlets on the left - either Matt Weiser or Wyatt Cahill - and Dennison is supposed to drag left but Daniel, the Bulls backup quarterback, was forced to improvise. Miami’s Dayonne Nunley was in Daniel’s face before he could think but thanks to a timely block by Clarke, he was free to scramble.
“I had to put on the brakes and turn it back the other way,” Daniel said. “It was a basic scramble drill that any quarterback would do on offense.”
Dennison stepped down and blocked, then noticed the snap was bad. He was on the right side but instead of dragging saw the chaos and froze.
“There was traffic and I kinda just stood there for a second,” Dennison said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
Nunley actually had Daniel wrapped up before he slithered away and wheeled right searching for an opening to extend the play. Daniel and Dennison made eye contact and Dennison ran for the first down marker and Brown popped Daniel after he lobbed the 10-yard completion.
“I just went up and made the catch,” Dennison said. “Tony made a great play to keep everything alive.”
By the way, junior tailback Branden Oliver finished with 199 yards rushing and a touchdown on a 5-yard run in the third quarter that gave UB a 10-3 advantage.
In a game with a season’s worth of peaks and valleys, Oliver’s performance got lost in the highlight’s package but was significant nonetheless. It was the 12th 100-yard rushing game of his career, tying James Starks for the most in school history. Like Starks, who missed his senior season due to a shoulder injury, Oliver reached the mark in three seasons.
“The running game really helped our offense,” Licata said. “Give Bo Oliver a lot of credit.”
The Bulls have obvious depth in the secondary and cornerback Marqus Baker is another example.
Playing for the injured Cortney Lester, the redshirt freshman from Tampa had four breakups, including two on the RedHawks’ final drive.
“[Miami QB Zac Dysert] did a good job of throwing the ball and fitting it in there,” said Baker, who added a tackle for a loss. “This week our defensive coaches did a good job to develop schemes to stop No. 8.”
Junior Derek Brim (Canisius) continues to play well in place of Witney Sherry at free safety and finished with 10 tackles, which tied defensive end Steven Means (Grover Cleveland) for team-high honors.