It was a good day for University at Buffalo players to call in sick and stay in bed. Then they could have avoided being slapped around by a Kent State team that had just one victory over a Division I-A opponent. Make it two.
UB fell to 1-8 overall and 1-6 in the Mid-American Conference after suffering an embarrassing 33-7 loss to the Golden Flashes on Saturday in UB Stadium in a game wasn't even that close. It was arguably the Bulls' worst showing since their 38-15 loss to I-AA Colgate at home last season.
"There's this damn guy Murphy out there who's got this law," said UB coach Jim Hofher, "and he dropped in."
Like a hot rock. It was like UB spun out of control the moment it stepped on the field and didn't know which way to turn the wheel. The outcome was shocking considering UB had two weeks to prepare for Kent State (3-6, 2-4), and the Golden Flashes are by no means overwhelming. Their first I-A win came last week against Ohio University, 42-16. Maybe that should have been an indication that Saturday was going to be a long day for the Bulls. Ohio rolled over UB, 34-0, six weeks ago.
"They made virtually all the plays, we made virtually none," Hofher said. "We were very ineffective in all of our areas. It's certainly not explainable or understandable, but that was the end result."
A week off to prepare, and the Bulls had this to show for it: A offense that produced a feeble 116 yards and an absentee defense that yielded 489.
"When we needed to run it we couldn't, and they could," Hofher said. "We needed to pass it, we couldn't, and they could. That's really the tale of the tape. . . . We didn't remotely play good enough football today to win a college football game."
The Bulls had 29 yards at halftime when they trailed, 26-0. They had 49 yards after three quarters when Kent led, 33-0, as the 6,454 in attendance booed in disapproval. During one stretch, the Bulls had six consecutive three-and-outs and gained 5 yards.
"I'm not sure their defense gets enough attention," Hofher said. "There's a reason why they're third in the conference. They made things very, very difficult for us."
With 1:24 remaining in the third, UB fans sarcastically cheered a first-down pass from P.J. Piskorik to Matt Knueven. The Bulls hadn't converted a first down since their opening drive. Almost on cue, Piskorik fumbled the next snap for an 8-yard loss.
The Bulls managed to scrape together one good drive when Piskorik hit an open Chad Upshaw for a 28-yard touchdown with 12:58 left in the game. Other than that, the offense was non-existent.
"We know we can play better, and we've proven it before that we can play better," said Knueven, who had four receptions for 43 yards. "In a way it's disappointing that we couldn't execute some of the things we normally do, but we have to go back and look at it an improve."
There was plenty of blame to go around. UB's defense often swung and missed trying to keep pace with Kent State tailback David Alston and quarterback Joshua Cribbs.
Alston, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound senior, finished with 174 yards rushing and tied a school record with four touchdowns. Alston earned second-team All-MAC honors in 2001 after rushing for 633 yards but was hampered by foot and ankle injuries the last two seasons. He came into Saturday's game second to Cribbs in rushing while averaging only 3.2 yards per carry.
Saturday, his average was 6.0.
"He's a great player," said Cribbs, who ran for 132 yards while completing 17 of 25 passes for 167 yards. "I train with him every year, and we train hard and lift hard, and I'm glad to see something come out of it."
Kent State set the table nicely for victory with a 16-play, 98-yard opening drive capped by a 4-yard touchdown run by Alston. Cribbs made one pass attempt to Cameron Bobb that was incomplete. All the yardage came on the ground.
"We made mistakes, very correctable mistakes," said UB defensive end Aaron Sanders. "Joshua Cribbs and (Alston) took advantage of it. We have to come in (today), watch the film and correct the mistakes that we've been making."
Kent State was once the longest-running joke in the MAC, but the postgame laughs belonged to the Golden Flashes, who won back-to-back games for the first time since the 2001 season. They are used to being humiliated. As is UB. The only reason UB isn't hidden in its familiar space at the bottom of the MAC's East Division is because Central Florida is winless.
Saturday was UB's 30th loss in its last 33 games.
"This is not what we expect," Knueven said. "This is not what we wanted."