Someday, this harrowing existence at Miami (Ohio) will come to an end for the University at Buffalo. It will get the right break or make the right play and finally put this heartrending losing streak to bed. Just not yet.
Not Saturday, anyway, when the Bulls fell once again to the RedHawks, 31-28, in front of 12,288 at Yager Stadium and made the closely contested Mid-American Conference East Division race a little more captivating.
Miami (5-5, 4-1) knocked the Bulls (4-6, 4-2) from unbeaten status in the East Division, and pulled into a first-place tie with UB with two divisional games remaining for both teams. Both are 3-1 in MAC East play.
The RedHawks defeated Buffalo for the 10th consecutive time, including five straight in Yager Stadium.
"Nobody is happy about it," said sophomore tailback James Starks, who rushed for a game-high 148 yards, including a sparkling 92-yard touchdown in the first quarter that gave UB a 7-0 lead. "So we have to come back focused."
So the Bulls head into the bye week with their conference championship dreams and bowl aspirations hanging on games against Bowling Green and Kent State. Miami will host Akron on Nov. 14 before its regular-season finale at Ohio University on Nov. 24.
A win Saturday would have placed Miami in UB's rearview mirror but now it must beat Bowling Green and Kent State just to gain bowl eligibility.
"It hurts right now," said junior quarterback Drew Willy, who completed a school-record 33 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns. "We know that we're going to have composure about ourselves and come back this week for our bye week and work on things we need to work on for Bowling Green."
It was close for the entire game, though Miami's 31-20 lead heading into the final 6:39 seemed to be safe until UB pulled together and rallied. But the Bulls' past at Miami is littered with hard blows right to the stomach, usually by a big play to break the game open. Only this time, it didn't happen until the end.
The Bulls trailed by three when they forced the RedHawks to punt after Kendric Hawkins broke up Daniel Raudabaugh's pass intended for Armand Robinson on third down. That set the Bulls up first-and-10 from their own 30 with 2:27 remaining.
Usually UB's games at Miami are out of hand well before halftime. Not this time. UB coach Turner Gill huddled his offense on the sideline, looked them in the eye and told them to execute and believe.
"We had the momentum going," he said. "We just needed to execute a few more plays."
Willy completed a quick pass to Starks out of the backfield for 5 yards and another to Ernest Jackson for 4 yards before hitting Brett Hamlin down the sideline for a 16-yard gain to the Miami 45. On second down Willy was trying to lead Gary Rice on the inside and just as he prepared to let fly, Miami cornerback Jeff Thompson blindsided the UB quarterback, forcing a fumble. It was recovered by Miami's Travis Craven at the Buffalo 43.
"I didn't see the corner coming," Willy said. "Hats off to them, that's game."
With tons of momentum after beating Ohio, Toledo and Akron in three of its last four games, UB seemed prepped to end its streak against Miami.
After Starks' 92-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, the RedHawks scored 17 consecutive points to build a 17-7 lead with 2:56 left in the second. Then, UB used the final 2:51 of the half to tie the game.
Willy found Naaman Roosevelt on a slant pattern for a touchdown with 34 seconds left in the half to pull UB within 17-14. On the ensuing kickoff UB's Ronald Sears recovered a fumble by Miami's Jamal Rogers at the RedHawks' 30 with 24.9 seconds left. Willy threw two incompletions before Gill called a draw play for Starks, who raced to the 16-yard line. That set up a 33-yard field goal by A.J. Principe, tying the game at 17-all as the half expired.
This wasn't going to be routine for Miami.
"We knew we were facing a very, very good football team," said Miami coach Shane Montgomery. "I think that they proved that they are a good football team."
But it's a two-game season now for UB. The Bulls haven't beaten Bowling Green since 2000 and the Kent State game is on the road where the Bulls are 1-5 this season. But at least they don't return to Oxford for a while.
Miami (Ohio) 31, Buffalo 28