DIFFERENT WAYS OF SEEING THE BULLS' 28-25 LOSS
How do you feel after yesterday's game? I'm good.
Spencer Hall, who is sort of the Ken Kesey of college football pontification, made a point about yesterday’s Alabama-Florida game that stopped me in my tracks. It reminded me of Kesey’s study of sound in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, oddly enough.
Hang On, Stay With Me Here
Wolfe, in his book, reports that Kesey and the Merry Pranksters formed a (not very good) musical group. One of the aural conundrums this ensemble explored was the distance between the moment when an instrument is struck—when the sound is created—and the time it takes for the music to travel through time and space.
This gap in time, Kesey posited, changes everything. The same could be said, he believed for sight, and the gap in time (the speed of light!) from which you see something, and interpret what you saw.
This represented a genuine metaphysical enigma to Kesey: how close can you get to actually living in the most immediate present possible?
This matters, he believed, because we spend our lives regretting the past and worrying about the future. We miss our lives, in other words, overthinking our lives.
Back to Football: Spencer Hall on Alabama-Florida
So back to Spencer Hall, specifically his take on #1 Alabama’s razor-thin 31-29 win over Florida on Saturday.
Hall’s point, which I will paraphrase, was the #11 Gators, despite the loss, shouldn’t be disappointed. Yes, they lost to the Crimson Tide (again), but did so with guts.
Florida, a two-touchdown underdog, missed a game-tying two-point conversion by a yard with 3:10 remaining in the game after clawing back from an 18-point first-quarter deficit.
Despite that hole, the Gators ended up dominating the game: they out-gained Alabama, 440 yards to 331. They won the time of possession battle by nearly four minutes. They outscored the Tide 26-10 in the game's final three quarters.
There were no trick plays, Hall explained, no lucky breaks, muffed snaps, weird interceptions, funky officiating—in fact, Florida was on the wrong end of a couple very questionable pass interference calls.
The Gators went down with honor. Even in defeat, Florida proved itself to be one of the best teams in the country, at least on Saturday, Sept. 18. We’ll see where things go from here.
And Now, Buffalo
This was all a very long way to get to #16 Coastal Carolina’s 28-25 win over our Buffalo Bulls. UB was also a two-touchdown underdog. As the cliche goes, they didn’t lose so much as they ran out of time (head coach Maurice Linguist actually said this after the game).
Buffalo was down 28-17 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game. The Chanticleers had just traveled 76 yards in less than two minutes on one of their patented big-play drives: a nine-yard run called back on a holding penalty, followed by a 58-yard completion from QB Grayson McCall to WR Kameron Brown to flip the field from the CCU 17 to Buffalo’s 25, followed by an 18-yard completion to WR Braydon Bennett down to the UB 7.
This was what we’d been waiting for: the dagger in the heart.
It was almost like one of Hemingway’s bullfighting stories: the matador struggled, showing great technique but lacking the usual artistry. Now, it was simply a matter of getting the damn thing over with, an estocada to the heart in the form of an 18-point fourth-quarter lead. All that remained was how.
A Shermani Jones or Reese White run?
A McCall keeper ?
An end zone bullet to massive TE Isaiah Likely?
A fade to slippery WR Javion Heiligh?
A call to one of the Chanticleers’ supporting cast, like Brown, Bennett, or Aaron Bedgood, who already had a 16-yard TD reception?
One strike, then good night, Irene.
But Wait: There’s the McCall Mistake.
It’s an interception by sophomore cornerback Logic Hudgens, one of several Bulls pulled from the fruitful Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region.
There’s a 92-yard drive with three third- and fourth-down conversions. There’s hard work from RBs Kevin Marks (24 rushing yards), Dylan McDuffie—who played his high school ball about a half-mile from UB’s North Campus at Sweet Home High School (10 rushing yards)—and Ron Cook (28 total yards) accounting for two-thirds of that long, grinding drive, including Marks’ TD run.
There’s QB Kyle Vantrease, standing in the pocket and taking an absolute shot while delivering another 16-yard strike to WR Dominic Johnson.
Johnson pulled in six catches for 66 yards on Saturday—many in the most dangerous part of the field, the high end of the crowded second level, where linebackers, safeties, and corners can appear from out of nowhere and end a play or, in some cases, a season, or even a career.
There’s WR Quian Williams, the grad transfer from Eastern Michigan, the quiet leader catching two balls, including the two-point PAT cutting the CCU lead to a field goal.
Did the drive take too long? Probably.
But it also put Buffalo’s defense back on the field, and that defense—expected to be hot blacktop for the Chanticleers’ steamroller—frustrated the living hell out of McCall and company, to the point where the star QB was visibly griping with his coaches and teammates after his fourth-quarter INT.
Let’s be fair to Grayson: it was only the fourth interception of the young man’s career. In fact, the entire Coastal Carolina offense was given a taste of medicine by the Bulls’ defense that it doesn’t often swallow. That medicine is fear.
We’re Not Kansas
The Chanticleers entered its game against Buffalo with a 2-0 record, outscoring its opponents, 99-36. Granted, those opponents were The Citadel and Kansas—fine educational institutions, but terrible football schools.
CCU fell to Liberty in last year’s Cure Bowl, a 37-34 overtime shootout, but battled back from its own 14-0 deficit to scare the living bejesus out of the Evangelical university. No shame there.
Prior to that loss, Coastal won 12 games in a row by an average score of 36-19.
The Bulls’ defense gave up 444 total yards, including 232 passing yards and 212 on the ground. It’s also the least yardage CCU accumulated in a game this season, or in all but two of its last nine games—one of which was last year’s upset over Brigham Young University, which finished 2020 eleventh in the country.
UB linebackers James Patterson and Kadofi Wright (two more Maryland and Virginia men, respectively) were everywhere. Patterson collected a game-high 11 tackles and Wright pinned down six, including two for losses, one of which saved what would have been a third-down Bennett TD run from Buffalo’s four-yard line. This tackle led to a missed FG that preserved a 14-14 halftime tie.
Safety E.J. Brown sacrificed his body on 10 total tackles. Edge rusher Taylor Riggins was a monster, racking up seven solo tackles, three tackles for losses, and two sacks.
Having watched too many Coastal Carolina videos on YouTube over the past several days, I had almost no hope for a Buffalo victory—I thought maybe they could cover the spread if CCU called off the dogs late—coming into this game.
I’ve rarely been as proud of a team as I was after seeing the way these guys stepped up. In the end, it wasn’t enough.
Different Ways of Seeing
Most people will look at this game through one of two lenses: the impressive display against a nationally ranked opponent with a heat-seeking offense, or the missed opportunity—yet another missed opportunity, some would say.
“We had every opportunity to give ourselves a chance to come away with a W,” Linguist said. "You can easily point to one or two things. Collectively, as a team, offense, defense, special teams, we didn't do enough to come away with the victory.”
If you want to dwell on the past, you say Buffalo should’ve beaten either Nebraska or Coastal Carolina—maybe both, the chances were there—if it’s a real program, whatever that means. Coaching changes, transfers, yada, yada. Wins and losses are all that matter.
If you want to worry about the future, you look ahead. UB plays Old Dominion next week in what should be a win.
This would give the Bulls a 2-2 record heading into MAC play, which kicks off against a Western Michigan team that shocked Pittsburgh on Saturday and a Kent State squad that’s been battle-hardened against two of the top six teams in America in the past three weeks.
You worry there’s a very real chance that the Bulls are 2-4 with an 0-2 record in the MAC before the gauntlet eases a bit with late fall games against Ohio, Akron, Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio), and Northern Illinois, none of whom—a few spirited performances aside—have been especially imposing to date.
Tying This Whole Thing Together
I choose to follow the Ken Kesey route. I am going to enjoy the moment.
Yesterday’s game was as entertaining a three hours of UB football I’ve enjoyed since, well, certainly since the days before the pandemic turned 2020 into a ragged caricature of a season.
How close can you get from the moment of the action on the field—from the moment of action, into the camera lens, through your television—and experience the reality of that moment? The joy? The excitement? The fear? The heartbreak? For those three hours, I was able to live in the moment.
We’ll see how the season goes. Despite the result, I want to enjoy yesterday, in my own way, for as long as I can.
MAC Week 3 Roundup
Overall, I went 10-2 picking winners but a lowly 5-7 against the spread. I’m 20-4 on winners over the last two weeks but 14-18-1 against the number on the season (I didn’t pick winners or call the spread on every game in Week 1, hence the numerical discrepancy).
Play my money lines, folks, I’m handing out free cash! But not the spread. Please, for the love of God, not the spread.
Anyhow, the roundup:
Louisiana 49, Ohio 14. The next sign of life Ohio shows will be its first. The Ragin’ Cajuns were 19.5-point favorites and got there with ease. PICKED THE WIN / CALLED THE SPREAD
#5 Iowa 30, Kent State 7. Woof! The Hawkeyes cover the 22-point spread by a nose. If I had the Flashes, I would’ve been very angry when Kent State’s Sean Lewis chose to punt on 4th and 4 from his own 31 with 2:18 left in the game. PICKED IT / CALLED IT
#16 Coastal Carolina 28, Buffalo 25. I asked the Bulls, 14-point dogs, to prove me wrong, and they did. I’ll take the L on this one. PICKED IT / MISSED IT
#25 Michigan 63, Northern Illinois 10. Michigan scored on its first nine possessions. Yes, they covered the spread. PICKED IT / CALLED IT
Western Michigan 44, PIttsburgh 41. Wow! 14-point dog WMU with the huge road upset. Three TDs and 337 passing yards for Broncos QB Kaleb Eleby, who’s back after two disappointing games to start the season. WRONG / MISSED IT
Eastern Michigan 42, UMass 28. UMass covers as a 22-point home underdog, which says less about the Minutemen than it does about EMU. PICKED IT / MISSED IT
Miami (OH) 42, Long Island University 7. FCSLIU scored its first TD of the season—it’s first points of the season—against the RedHawks, who failed to cover the 39.5-point spread. You're killing me, guys. PICKED IT / MISSED IT
Akron 35, Bryant 14. Akron gets a win and covers as 10.5-point favorites! Don’t get used to it. PICKED IT / CALLED IT
Wyoming 45, Ball State 12. Well, the Cowboys definitely covered as seven-point favorites. Ball State might just not be very good this year. PICKED IT / MISSED IT
Colorado State 22, Toledo 6. Classic letdown after the Rockets’ swing and miss at Notre Dame last week, but come on, Toledo. Colorado State previously lost to freakin’ Vanderbilt, then went on the road and beat a team that was a minute and a half from taking out the #12 Fighting Irish? Ugh. WRONG / MISSED IT
Bowling Green 27, Murray State 10. So proud of the Falcons, who were one-point dogs to an FCS team at their own homecoming! I told you to take the BGSU-Akron parlay on Twitter yesterday, gang. PICKED IT / CALLED IT
LSU 49, Central Michigan 21. Really thought CMU would keep this game within 20 and beat the 19.5-point spread. They did not. PICKED IT / MISSED IT
See you soon — go Bills, and enjoy your Sunday.