COLUMBUS, Ohio – University at Buffalo senior defensive end Steven Means had one more whirlwind game left in him. He was in on nine tackles, with 2.5 tackles for a loss. He blocked a field goal. He had a hurry. It was a performance typical of his output over the last six or seven games, when his play seemed to reach a new level and he disrupted opposing offenses on a weekly basis.
But it’s over now. The career of the defensive end out of Grover Cleveland has run its course. And that realization left Means with tears in his eyes Friday evening after UB’s 21-7 loss to Bowling Green at Columbus Crew Stadium.
“We fought and I’m proud of everybody on this team,” Means said. “All I ask these guys to do is fight and we fought.”
Means kept the game scoreless in the first quarter with a block of a 28-yard field-goal attempt. He had two blocked extra points in the Toledo game.
“Just pure effort,” Means said. “I didn’t even line up in the spot I normally line up on. Colby [Way] and Wyatt [Cahill], they created the push that I needed and I just went and jumped.”
What accounted for Means’ consistently ferocious play down the stretch?
“This moment right here,” Means said. “Knowing this moment was going to come.”
Defensive back Adam Redden (St. Francis) got his hands on a punt for the second straight week with a deflection of Brian Schmiedebusch’s first attempt, midway through the first quarter. The punt ended up carrying 21 yards. Redden also partially blocked a punt last week at Massachusetts that resulted in a touchdown return by Kyndal Minniefield.
Cornerback Najja Johnson intercepted Matt Schilz on the game’s first play, a long throw down the middle intended for Shaun Joplin. He added another interception on an overthrow with 8:06 left in the third quarter. They were the fourth and fifth interceptions on the season for Johnson, a junior from Atlanta whose parents grew up in Buffalo. He also had seven first-half tackles.
The Bulls produced nine picks in the final three games, including Way’s fourth-quarter interception and 20-yard return that set up their lone touchdown. It was Way’s first career pick.
UB needed 156 rushing yards to move up to No. 2 on the school single-season charts but finished with just 29 yards on 29 carries. Branden Oliver carried nine times for 20, Devin Campbell six times for 26. Oliver, sidelined or bothered by injuries much of the season, finished with 835 yards on the year. Campbell, a true freshman, had 534.
Oliver missed four games because of a knee sprain and last week’s game at UMass because of an ankle.
“I felt all right,” Oliver said. “Just had to loosen up a little bit. There was some pain but I just had to fight through it.”
Oliver admitted he was frustrated by the way the season went, especially after his record-breaking sophomore year.
“That’s one thing we talked about [Friday] in chapel,” Oliver said. “You just got to persevere. There’s always going to be trials and tribulations in life. You just got to handle them the right way.”
Junior linebacker and MAC Defensive Player of the Year candidate Khalil Mack was in on 10 tackles, with 2.5 tackles for a loss. Despite missing a game, Mack topped the Bulls with 94 tackles on the season with 21 tackles for a loss. BG Player of the Year candidate Chris Jones, a senior tackle, was in on five tackles with two tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
UB’s captains for the game were Mack, Means, Jasen Carlson and Willie Moseley. ... Tight end Matt Weiser’s first career reception, a 15-yarder, set up Alex Dennison’s touchdown run. Weiser’s previous catch, good for a two-point conversion against UMass, doesn’t count as an official reception. ... Alex Neutz replaced Cordero Dixon on punt returns for the first time this season and also caught a team-high six passes for 92 yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark. On the year Neutz had 65 catches for 1,015 yards and 11 TDs. Tight end Jimmy Gordon (two) was the only other Bull with multiple touchdown catches on the season.