On Friday afternoon in Buffalo, N.Y., the Buffalo Bulls and Bowling Green Falcons will meet in a winner-take-all game for the Mid-American Conference Eastern Division championship and a spot in the conference championship game.
This will be just the 11th meeting between the two teams, and most of that history would be best described as uneventful and one-sided (Bowling Green leads the all-time series, 7-3).
One game between these two schools meant more than any of the others, and last Thursday (Nov. 21) was the fifth anniversary of that match-up. The circumstances of that game were not exactly the same as this -- it was not winner-take-all -- but they were close enough. And what ensued was a contest that will long stand as one of the best examples of #MACtion that our dear conference could ever offer.
Buffalo traveled to Doyt Perry Stadium in Bowling Green that November with a 4-2 record in MAC play. They were having their best season as an FBS program and lead the East Division by one game. Bowling Green came into the match-up with a 3-3 conference record, one game behind Buffalo, and were tied for second place with Akron.
Both teams had defeated Akron earlier in the season, so despite having one more game to play after this one, each controlled their own destiny for the division championship. Bowling Green would win the East with wins over Buffalo and Toledo one week later. Buffalo needed only to beat Bowling Green to win their first division title.
|(Click Link for Box Score)||1 Q||2 Q||3 Q||4 Q||1OT||2OT||Final|
|Bowling Green Falcons||0||14||7||6||7||0||34|
Buffalo took the opening kickoff and went on a long drive to start the game, but Bowling Green's defense eventually held. The Bulls went for the first down on 4th-and-5 from the BGSU 32, but Drew Willy's pass to Naaman Roosevelt fell incomplete. The two squads exchanged punts after that, and late in the first quarter, the Falcons took over at their own 49. From there, BGSU quarterback Tyler Sheehan led the Falcons to their first score of the game. Three plays into the second quarter, Sheehan ran a five-yard keeper into the end zone for a 7-0 Bowling Green lead.
Bowling Green's defense continued to shut Buffalo down throughout the second quarter. After BGSU's touchdown, Willy was intercepted on the first play of Buffalo's next drive. However, Buffalo's defense responded as they stopped BGSU when the Falcons tried to convert a 4th-and-8 from the Bulls' 33. BGSU's defense then forced a three-and-out, and Sheehan led another short touchdown drive. Sheehan again scored the points himself, this time on a three-yard run, and the Falcons led 14-0.
As the first half wound down, Bowling Green got another stop on defense, and the Falcon offense threatened to get another score. However, with under 30 seconds left in the half, Sheehan was intercepted at Buffalo's 2 yard line, and BGSU had to take a 14-0 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, defense was rather absent from the festivities.
Bowling Green started the third quarter with a long scoring drive that was capped by a three-yard Anthony Turner run for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead. Buffalo finally found an answer to BGSU's defense on their first possession of the second half. Willy scored the Bulls' first points of the game on a one-yard sneak into the end zone.
With their lead cut to 21-7 and six minutes still left in the third quarter, Sheehan deftly led the Falcons on another long drive. The possession took the rest of the third quarter and nearly two minutes of the fourth. When it ended, Turner scored his second touchdown of the game, this time from two yards out. Unfortunately, Sinisa Vrvillo missed the extra point. The miss kept the Falcon lead at 20 points (27-7) with 13:16 remaining in the game.
Would the missed extra point come back to haunt the Falcons? Thirteen minutes did not seem like much, given how well BGSU had played to that point.
If Drew Willy was going to have any say in it, the game was not over. Willy went 6-for-6 on Buffalo's next possession and led the Bulls to another touchdown. James Starks finished the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run as just two minutes elapsed on the scoring drive. However, A.J. Principe missed the extra point, as the BGSU lead stayed at 27-13.
After a Bowling Green punt, the Bulls took the ball with just under eight minutes left in the fourth. Three plays later, they faced a 4th-and-6 from their own 26. Head coach Turner Gill chose to go for the first down, but Willy's pass to Ernest Jackson fell incomplete. The Falcons now had a chance to put the game away once and for all.
Not so fast. The Bulls held the Falcons to just six yards on three plays. On 4th-and-4 from the Buffalo 20, BGSU head coach Gregg Brandon eschewed the field goal and tried for the Bulls' jugular. Derek Brighton was tackled for a nine-yard loss, and the Bulls took over with 4:53 left in the game.
That's all the opening that Willy and the Bulls needed. Willy completed five straight passes to get the ball to the BGSU 4 yard line. Then, on second down, he completed a touchdown pass to Brett Hamlin to cut BGSU's lead to just 27-20. On the ensuing kickoff, Gill went for an onside kick -- and Buffalo recovered! The Bulls had 2:29 left to maneuver 58 yards for the tying score. It took Buffalo eight plays to get down to the BGSU 5, and from there, Willy completed a touchdown pass to Naaman Roosevelt. Principe's extra point completed the epic 20-point comeback with just 37 seconds left in regulation. Bowling Green then meekly took a knee to send the game into overtime.
BGSU won the coin flip and went on defense first in overtime. After a one-yard loss on a Willy-to-Starks completion, Willy threw deep to Hamlin for a 26-yard touchdown. The score gave Buffalo a 34-27 lead, their first lead of the entire game. The Falcons answered three plays later with a 23-yard pass from Sheehan to Corey Partridge.
With the game tied at 34, the Falcons were on offense first in the second overtime. On the first play, Sheehan connected with Freddie Barnes for 17 yards and a first down at the Buffalo 8. However, three plays later, the Falcons faced a 4th-and-goal from the 2. Again, Brandon chose to pass on the field goal. Sheehan's pass to Partridge fell incomplete. All of a sudden, the Bulls could win with any score.
It only took one play. James Starks took the handoff from Willy and raced 25 yards for the division-clinching touchdown. Buffalo had won in two overtimes, 40-34.
There's no way to really know what will happen this Friday when the Bulls and Falcons play with everything on the line, but here's hoping that the two teams can capture the spirit of what happened in 2008 and give all of us another epic dose of #MACtion.
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