The University at Buffalo football team was left to contemplate what might have been Saturday afternoon following a 52-17 loss to Youngstown State, the top-ranked Division I-AA team in the nation.
On the scoreboard, it looks like another blowout loss for the Bulls (2-5), who have allowed 50 or more points in three of their last four games. But UB was very much in the game, leading by 14-3 after one quarter and down by only seven, 24-17, in the third.
After a UB punt, the Penguins were pinned at their own 17-yard line. With a strong defensive stand, the Bulls would get the ball back in good field position to try to tie the game.
It never happened as Youngstown marched 83 yards in 16 plays, eating 8:13 off the clock. The drive was capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Adrian Brown as the Penguins opened a 14-point lead with 2:48 left in the third quarter. The winners converted three third-down plays to keep the drive rolling.
The Penguins (6-0) tacked on three more TDs in the fourth quarter to turn the game into a rout.
"That real long, long drive hurt us a lot," lamented UB coach Craig Cirbus. "There were a lot of third-down opportunities that they capitalized on, so you have to give them credit. Whether that one drive really turned the corner for them or not, I'm not sure, but it certainly added to it."
While Cirbus was disappointed in the outcome, he was pleased with his team's effort.
"This football team and this coaching staff worked incredibly hard this week," he said. "We had our best week of practice preparing for Youngstown State. As long as we gave our best, I'm not going to get down on that and we gave our best this week."
The Penguins' Demond Tidwell passed for 300 yards -- 199 of them to Renauld Ray -- and Brown rushed for three touchdowns.
UB surged ahead early as Joshua Roth scored on a 1-yard run and Anthony Swan ran in from 3 yards out for a 14-3 lead. Then Youngstown got going.
On the ground, the Penguins were led by Demetri Harris' 54 yards on 11 carries. Brown scored on runs of 3, 1 and 2 yards. Jared Zwick scored on runs of 1 and 9 yards.
Ray had eight catches, including a 39-yard TD.
UB's Chad Salisbury was 16 of 34 passing for 197 yards with one interception. Drew Haddad caught seven passes for 112 yards, the third time he has topped the century mark this year.
The Bulls host UMass at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.