OXFORD, Ohio — The circumstances surrounding the University at Buffalo’s last visit to Yager Stadium bear some resemblance to what they are today. Back in 2011, the Bulls arrived here having rallied for 20 fourth-quarter points in a 31-30 loss to Northern Illinois. They were feeling like that wild rally against one of the Mid-American Conference’s best teams could be their springboard to better things. And then they were promptly hammered, 41-13, by a Miami team that won only four games that season.
UB takes to the field at Yager Stadium tonight coming off a 51-41 loss at Toledo, a game in which it trailed, 38-0. The offensive explosion on the road against a West Division contender has the Bulls feeling their best football is still to come. What will the result be this time around?
On paper this MAC East tilt between the Bulls (7-3, 5-1) and the winless RedHawks qualifies as a colossal mismatch. UB has scored at least 30 points in seven straight games. The next time Miami tops 17 will be a season’s first. UB quarterback Joe Licata is coming off a 497-yard passing game, eighth best in the history of the MAC. The two Miami QBs replacing injured senior starter Austin Boucher have thrown for 247 yards. Combined. On the season.
About all Miami seems to have going for it tonight is history. The RedHawks are 6-1 all-time against the Bulls at Yager Stadium. UB won here, 42-17, in 2009. In the other six appearances it’s been outscored a combined 259-71. In 2003, Ben Roethlisberger’s final season at Miami, UB kicked a 24-yard fourth quarter field goal. While trailing, 52-0. Apparently beggars can’t be choosers.
UB linebacker Lee Skinner might not be aware of the whole Yager Stadium history between the Bulls and the RedHawks. The part he does know is enough to suffice.
“We’re focused on this week,” said Skinner, who grew up about an hour away on the outskirts of Dayton. “We’re focused on Miami. A lot of the older guys, including myself, we remember two years ago when we played Miami. And being from close to the area, that was tough. That was a tough game for us. It left a really bad taste in our mouth. It’s something we feel we have to get after.”
UB is playing to recapture momentum. The Bulls are tied for the MAC East lead with Bowling Green with two games to play.
No matter what the Bulls do today or how BG fares in Saturday’s game at two-win Eastern Michigan, the division title comes down to the Black Friday season finale between the Bulls and the Falcons at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Since each has one loss, neither can enter that game with more than two and everyone else in the division has at least three. The head-to-head result will be the tiebreaker should UB and BG finish with the same conference record.
The Bulls are putting all that out of mind. They rode a seven-game winning streak into Toledo, the school’s longest in more than 60 years. They’re a win away from becoming the first UB team to score six MAC victories in a season. The last thing they want to do is head into the BG finale wrestling with the doubt created by two straight losses.
“If you take your eye off of the process and what it takes and you’re too caught up in the external factors, you’re right, they’ll be some very disappointed people,” Bulls coach Jeff Quinn said. “And I’m not going to let that happen.
“Without a doubt this game has got our full attention. And what happened last week to this week, I know our kids are eager to get back to playing the way that they had in that stretch.”