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The numbers show that Joe Freedy did not have a good debut as the University at Buffalo's starting quarterback. The redshirt sophomore completed just 6 of 17 passes for 64 yards and was sacked three times.

But look beyond the numbers and the Bulls might just have a budding star on their hands. Starting because of injuries to Erik Rusin and Mike Gaydosz, Freedy handled himself fairly well in his first college game.

After a shaky start, he seemed to settle down and gave his team a chance to win with a 32-yard touchdown pass to flanker Drew Haddad. Freedy added 24 yards rushing.

"I thought Joe played well," coach Craig Cirbus said. "With only two weeks preparation, he did an outstanding job and showed great poise. He hung in there, and scrambled around a little to present some problems. A heavy, heavy rush was on him all night long. He did a good job considering the circumstances."

Freedy was excited to get an opportunity to show off his ability.

"I felt I did pretty well," he said. "There were some things I could have done better, but this was a start. Hopefully, I can continue to build off this."

The Bulls lost a pair of key players to injury. Starting defensive lineman Josh Stello hurt his left femur in the first half. Cirbus wasn't sure of the extent of the injury, but the coach didn't seem optimistic.

Redshirt freshman Bam McDonald went down in the fourth quarter with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Cirbus said he could be out two to three weeks.

McDonald was having a strong game before getting hurt, gaining 33 yards on nine carries and providing the Bulls with a speed threat.

To get an idea how far the University at Buffalo has to go in its climb to Division I-A, look no further than Saturday's opponent.

Akron was the first football program to jump from I-AA to I-A, back in 1987. It joined the Mid-American Conference in 1992.

The Zips went 4-7 in their first I-A season under former Notre Dame coach Gerry Faust. Their best record at the major college level was 7-3-1 in 1992. They haven't had a winning season since.

Unlike UB, Akron had been successful as a I-AA programs, notching seven winning seasons in 10 years at that level.

Saturday was the Bulls' first loss in a home opener under Cirbus, although the other opponents were not as challenging as Akron.

The Bulls had beaten Fordham (49-13), Illinois State (41-35) and Lock Haven twice (30-7 and 40-17). Cirbus also is 3-2 in the first game of the year, the lone loss coming last season at Maine (30-13).

Former UB safety Brad Detwiler played in the Zips' secondary Saturday. He did not make a tackle. The sophomore started once and recorded 35 tackles for the Bulls in 1997. He transferred to Akron after the season to be closer to his North Canton, Ohio home.

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