University at Buffalo Football

Bulls Fall To Huskies at International Bowl

Memorable week and season comes to a disappointing end with 38-20 loss to Connecticut

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TORONTO, ONTARIO - The University at Buffalo’s magical 2008 season was derailed by a powerful Connecticut team that was able to dominate both lines of scrimmage en route to a 38-20 win over the Bulls at the third annual International Bowl at Rogers Centre. The game was played in front of an International Bowl record 40,184 fans, of which roughly 30,000 were wearing the Royal Blue and White of the Bulls.

The Bulls late-season magic seemed to be ready to carry into 2009 when Buffalo used five UConn turnovers to race to a 20-10 first-half lead. However, the Huskies (8-5) scored the last 28 points of the game behind 261 yards by the nation’s leading rusher, Donald Brown, to subdue the Bulls.

Buffalo (8-6) still had an opportunity to win in the game’s final minutes, but a pass by senior quarterback Drew Willy was broken up in the end zone and returned 100 yards for a score by Dahan Deleston with 2:15 remaining. The loss did not dampen head coach Turner Gill’s feelings about his team.

“It’s been a great week, but obviously today did not come out on the right side of things for us,” said head coach Turner Gill. “I’m so proud of this football team, they have played very, very hard and that’s all you can ask them to do. Obviously we didn’t execute as well as we hoped for, but a lot of that has to do with Connecticut, they were the best football team today. That doesn’t take away what I feel about this football program and what our staff feels about these players. This is not going to be a one-year wonder at Buffalo, we are going to be challenging for championships every year - I look forward to that and our players look forward to it.”

“I also want to say something about our seniors,” said Gill. “I’m proud of those guys, they have started a legacy. They have left a legacy of expectation, an expectation of winning...and that’s what it’s all about. They have set the tone, they have set the program – they have made this program nationally known – internationally known – and I’m proud of these young men.”

After falling behind to the Huskies, 10-3, early in the second quarter, the Bulls’ late-season propensity for forcing turnovers showed itself again in a huge way, leading to Buffalo scoring on three straight possessions.

Photo of Drew Willy
Drew Willy
The Bulls first big break came when freshman punter Peter Fardon boomed a 54-yard punt that was mishandled by Jasper Howard into his own end zone where Buffalo freshman Ray Anthony Long fell on it for his first career touchdown. That tied the score 10-10 with 11:36 left in the half.

The very next possession, UConn quarterback Tyler Lorenzen was sacked by UB’s Anel Montanez and Andrae Smith, with the ball coming loss and being recovered by defensive end Jerry Housey at the UConn 18-yard line.

The Bulls, however, had to settle for a 29-yard field goal by sophomore A.J. Principe that gave Buffalo its second lead at 13-10 with 8:22 left before half.

The magic continued on the ensuing kickoff, when UConn’s Robbie Frey fumbled the kickoff into his endzone, was crunched by linebacker Justin Winters at the six-yard line and coughed up the ball, recovered by UB’s John Syty at the Huskies four-yard line.

One play later, junior tailback James Starks ran over a Huskie defender at the one-yard line to put Buffalo up 20-10 – after the PAT – with 7:55 left in the second quarter.

In that incredible sequence, UB scored 17 points in 3:41 of game time while running four offensive plays.

The game’s momentum, however, began to swing back to the Connecticut side late in the first half. That’s when Brown, on a first-and-10 from the UConn 12-yard line, busted a 75-yard run to the UB 13-yard line. Lorenzen scored on the game’s next play and cut the Buffalo lead to 20-17 at intermission.

Photo of Davonte Shannon
Davonte Shannon
For the remainder of the game, UConn’s stout defense and outstanding offensive line would dominate, allowing the Huskies to rush for 358 yards in the game. The Bulls, meanwhile, would suffer through their worst offensive performance of the year. UConn held Starks to just 46 yards on 24 touches (13 carries, 11 receptions), while Willy finished 29-of-43 for 213 yards, but was held without a touchdown pass for just the second game this season.

Flanker Naaman Roosevelt capped an incredible campaign with eight receptions for 90 yards, becoming the first UB receiver to ever record 100 catches in a season – finishing just one away from the all-time MAC record with 104 catches for 1,402 yards – both easily UB school records.

The Bulls defense, which played valiantly by forcing four fumbles – was paced by sophomore Davonte Shannon who had 15 tackles – one for loss – including 10 solo stops and added his first career blocked kick. Winters added eight tackles and a forced fumble, while Montanez had three tackles, a half-sack, a two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Prior to the game, the 1958 Bulls – who have become nationally renowned for their courageous decision to turn down the Tangerine Bowl bid they received because of segregation laws in Orlando, FL – were honored before the game to a thunderous standing ovation by the crowd of over 40,000.

Gill said of the crowd, which was dominated by UB alumni and fans, “On behalf of our staff and players we want to thank all of the fans of WNY for their tremendous support at the International Bowl. It was an awesome feeling for our coaches and players to run out onto the field before the game. We look forward to their support in the coming years.”

BULL-etins: This was the 17th meeting between the two schools, with UConn now holding a 13-4 all-time edge... this was the second straight game that UB has scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery. Prior to the MAC Championship game, UB had not scored a TD on a fumble recovery since the 2006 season...UB recovered eight of its last nine fumbles forced...with its three fumble recoveries in the first half, UB set International Bowl records for most forced fumbles and most fumbles recovered...the 17 points scored in the second quarter tie an International Bowl record for points scored in a second quarter...the 56-yard punt by Peter Fardon in the first quarter was the longest punt in International Bowl history...the sack by Sherrod Lott was the first of his career...the fumble recovery by Jerry Housey is the first of his career...the four yard touchdown run by James Starks was his 16th of the season, tying him with Lee Jones (1966) first in school history..with his two field goals in the game A.J. Principe tied for Gerald Carlson (1995) for first in school history for field goals in a season with 17. Principe broke his own school record for points scored in a season...the blocked field goal by Davonte Shannon was UB’s first blocked field goal since Nov. 24, 2007 when Labinot Hakanjin blocked a field goal against Kent State...with his 12th tackle of the game, Davonte Shannon set a new International Bowl record for tackles in a game. He finished with 15 tackles on the day. His 10 solo tackles are also a record...Drew Willy’s 29 completions were an International Bowl record. His 67.4 completion percentage is also an International Bowl record.

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