Every year, the college football gods smite their share of helpless victims.
You know how it goes. One play left. A towering throw followed by an unbelievable catch. It’s the type of play that gets plenty of airtime around the country.
Unfortunately for the football team, it was on the wrong end of a miracle play that ended with a 30-28 loss to Buffalo Saturday at UB Stadium.
While the Owls will be reliving the final moments for quite some time, it will be important to move forward and recover from a potentially incapacitating loss.
“We can’t dwell on this,” sophomore cornerback Jamal Schulters said. “We just got to keep going, so I don’t even know who is on the schedule for next week.”
Schulters was involved in the final play that tore the heart out of the Owls’ sideline. Earlier in the game, he had a crucial interception at a time when the Bulls were closing in on a touchdown and the lead.
Buffalo improves to 2-1, 1-0 in the Mid-American Conference and continues to be one of the league favorites. The Owls, who fell in dramatic fashion for the second straight week, are now 1-2 and 0-1 in the MAC.
It can be argued that the team should have pulled out one of those victories, but all is not lost for the Cherry and White.
“There is no way to describe it and there is no way to rationalize it,” coach Al Golden said. “Two weeks in a row, we’re losing like this. We just got to move on. We got to move forward.”
After next week’s match-up with No. 16 Penn State, the Owls have favorable odds of winning against Western Michigan at home on Sept. 27. Then, they travel to Oxford to take on Miami (Ohio), a team that the Owls beat 24-17 last year.
If the team cannot quickly change gears, the 2008 campaign could be an underachieving endeavor.
Veteran leaders like senior wide receiver Bruce Francis and redshirt senior quarterback Adam DiMichele haven’t made excuses and don’t pin recent losses on just one play.
“When he caught the ball it was just a feeling of disappointment,” Francis said. “Mainly because of the penalties, that could have made the game out of reach earlier. We always look at the things that hurt us in the middle of the game.”
Francis is referring to a holding penalty on the game’s final drive that gave the Bulls appetizing field position. The initial kickoff following the touchdown that put the Owls up 28-24 was also off-line, bouncing out of bounds and placing the Bulls on the 40-yard line. These mishaps were critical, but these Owls have been through rough times before.
In 2006 DiMichele, Francis and many other upperclassmen suffered through agonizing back-to-back 62-0 drubbings courtesy of Louisville and Minnesota, respectively. And of course there was the infamous Connecticut game from last year, where the Owls appeared to make a miraculous play of their own, until referees overruled the touchdown.
Games like these have certainly challenged and motivated a maturing team.
The Owls won three of their next five after the “UConn-troversy” and seem to have the right mindset to get back on track again.
“The leaders on this team will have to get these young guys back and excited for next week and playing Penn State,” DiMichele said. “We just got to continue to progress. We’re on the right path. We just need to start finishing games.”
Happy Valley lays in wait with the Owls’ spirits on the mend. However, the team has much to be proud of after strong performances against the Huskies and Bulls. Veteran leaders vow to take another painful hit in stride and bring the team together. It may take divine intervention for the Owls to claw past the Lions next week, but the rest of the season is wide-open for the taking.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.