BUFFALO, N.Y. – There’s really nothing you can say.
Buffalo senior quarterback Drew Willy connected with junior wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt for a 35-yard touchdown pass as time expired, sending Temple to a heartbreaking 30-28 loss Saturday afternoon at UB Stadium.
The Owls took the lead just 38 seconds earlier, as redshirt senior quarterback Adam DiMichele hit senior wide receiver Bruce Francis for an 11-yard score. The play capped off a nine play, 74-yard drive that was assumed to be of the game-winning variety.
But sophomore punter Jeff Wathne’s ensuing kickoff squibbed out-of-bounds, and junior linebacker John Haley was later whistled for a holding penalty, giving the Bulls free yards and setting them up for the game-winning score.
“We had 38 seconds left and it didn’t seem like we left everything on the field,” DiMichele said. “That last drive, they really took it to us…but it’s frustrating, obviously. Very frustrating loss.”
As for his coach, the two key miscues on the last drive especially caught his eye.
“That’s how you lose games,” coach Al Golden said. “They moved the ball without taking any [time off] the clock. I don’t know why we would kick it out of bounds and then come back with a hold two plays later.”
The play itself came down to a simple matter of getting a body on Roosevelt and knocking the ball down. Redshirt junior defensive back Dominique Harris, sophomore cornerback Jamal Schulters, and sophomore defensive back Jaiquawn Jarrett were all in the vicinity of the play, but Roosevelt was able to get in front of them and catch the floating ball about three yards deep in the endzone.
Needless to say, Golden wasn’t very pleased, even more so that it was the Owls’ opening game in the Mid-American Conference.
“We didn’t do our job,” he said. “We didn’t box out like we’re supposed to, we didn’t have a jumper in position, we work it on it all the time. We didn’t do our job. They finished the game, we didn’t.”
Roosevelt seemed to agree with that assessment.
“Pretty much everything [was done wrong],” he said. “They didn’t box me out, there were five of them down there and just me. I don’t know why.”
His coach, Turner Gill, had a short and sweet reaction.
“Thank the lord,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jarrett and Schulters, who both will receive a bulk of the blame for the play, were simple and quick in their responses.
“We just didn’t execute our assignment,” Jarrett said. “They executed their assignments. That’s all I can say.”
“I was so busy looking at the ball, I didn’t get a chance to see what was going on in front of me,” Schulters added. “I was just watching the ball…guys didn’t really box out their man.”
But the loss can’t be focused on that one play, as the Owls were still stopped at the one-yard line on four consecutive plays in the first quarter, and sophomore kicker Jake Brownell badly missed a 43-yard field goal in the third quarter.
The team also had leads of 7-0, 14-7, and 21-14, before taking the lead late in the contest.
“There’s no way to describe it,” Golden said. “There’s no way to rationalize it, that’s it. Two week in a row [and] we’re losing like this.”
On the positive side of things, the Owls offense was once again solid.
The DiMichele-led group moved the ball with ease for most of the game, as the Owls undisputed leader still threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns, adding an additional 58 yards on the ground.
“We fought and fought and fought,” DiMichele said. “Come the fourth quarter, we fought back. But, in the end, they were the ones who came out on top. They just believed that much more than we did.”
While these tough losses will undoubtedly hurt the mindset of the team, the bottom is line the Owls still have to come back and play next week. And for seven more weeks after that.
So, the question becomes, how? How do they put this loss past them?
“We got to realize that that’s not the last game of the season,” Francis said. “Regardless of how we lose, we got to come back hard preparing for the next game.”
The Owls will need that kind of focus, and a lot more, as a date with nationally-ranked Penn State awaits them next Saturday in State College, Pa.
Defensive ends junior Junior Galette and sophomore Morris Blueford, Jr. didn’t make the trip because of injuries…The Owls entered the game with a 1-11 record against the Bulls…Francis caught a pass for the 29th consecutive game, extending his multi-season long streak… Former Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan was honored before the game, as he was a former assistant coach at Buffalo.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.