UB Bulls finally get breaks in walk-off win over Miami
Patrick Clarke connected on a 47-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Bulls to a hard-fought 27-24 victory, ending a six-game losing skid. Clarke’s victorious boot was the first game-winning kick as regulation time expired in the school’s 14-season Division I-A history, and it capped a wild fourth-quarter which featured the teams trading touchdowns over the final 5 ½ minutes.
“We needed to get this win,” Bulls coach Jeff Quinn said. “We know we’ve been banging on the door, and today we broke it down.”
Buffalo (2-6, 1-3 in Mid-American Conference play) took a 24-17 lead with 5:36 remaining when Joe Licata (Williamsville South) found Fred Lee for a 21-yard touchdown. That play followed a successful desperation fourth-down pass from holder/backup quarterback Tony Daniel to Alex Dennison off a botched field goal snap.
Miami (4-5, 3-2) tied the game with 23 seconds left as Zac Dysert connected with Nick Harwell for a 5-yard touchdown. It was Harwell’s third TD reception of the game, and capped a drive which was extended by two fourth-down conversions.
The Bulls, needing a huge play to avoid overtime, got just that as Devin Campbell fielded the kickoff at his own 18, made a couple of moves, and dashed off to the left with a stiff-arm for a 47-yard return. A five-yard rush by Branden Oliver got the ball to the Miami 30 and set up Clarke for his game-winning kick.
“I was ready to go,” Clarke said. “That scenario played out in my head over and over again. As soon as it came off my foot, I knew it was good.”
The sophomore kicker’s task was made a bit easier with 20-25 mph winds blowing toward the UB Stadium south end zone. He connected on a 49-yarder going the same way in the second quarter after missing well short on a first-quarter 46-yard attempt into the wind.
“I had complete faith that Pat could hit that kick,” Quinn said. “That was a big part of our decision in the third quarter to give them the wind … and us to have it in the fourth. There are games in this league that come down to these kinds of moments.”
The sophomore kicker was swarmed by his teammates about 50 yards behind the kick’s location because he initially tried to elude the exuberant gang.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” Quinn said. “It was a long overdue feeling. It will go down in the history as one of the best endings to a football game here.”
Junior running back Oliver also played a key role, gaining 199 yards on 32 carries, as the Bulls for the most part dedicated their attack to the run. Oliver notched his 12th career 100-yard game, tying James Starks for second on the school’s all-time list, behind only Anthony Swan’s 13. He also had a team-high five receptions.
Redshirt freshman Licata, who set the Western New York high school record with 87 touchdown passes, got his first collegiate start and completed 13 of 24 attempts for 127 yards and two TDs.
“I wanted Joe to manage our offense and manage the game,” Quinn said. “He did a couple of good things, in terms of checking plays, that we asked him to do. He was very mature out there.”
“I can’t describe my feelings after that one,” Licata said. “The defense played great, the offense played well enough to win, and special teams came through in the clutch.”
The UB defense was, indeed, spectacular against Dysert, who looked every bit like an NFL prospect. Dysert, who broke Ben Roethlisberger’s school record for career passing yardage in the third quarter, ended up with 25 completions in 44 attempts for 242 yards with 3 TDs and no interceptions.
Many of Dysert’s completions were a product of pinpoint placement, as RedHawk receivers were consistently well-covered. UB also was credited with eight pass breakups, four by redshirt freshman defensive back Marqus Baker, who had two in a row just before Harwell’s third TD. The unit also recorded seven tackles for losses, including three sacks.
“We knew we had our hands full with (Dysert), who will be playing on Sundays,” Quinn said. “(Our defense was) able to step up and keep (their) guys in check.”
Buffalo will finish its four-game homestand, and the home portion of its schedule, next Saturday against another conference game against Western Michigan. The Broncos (4-6, 2-4) snapped their three-game losing streak with a 42-31 win over Central Michigan.
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