The University at Buffalo's time is now, or probably never. The 17 seniors, toughened by a litany of losing seasons, know it. The seniors understand.
By now a career of playing catching up is behind them. They understand the importance of this moment for themselves and for UB football.
"This is my fifth season and this is the best we've ever done," said senior defensive end Trevor Scott. "I wear my Buffalo shirts everywhere and people always say, 'Good job, we're really proud of you.' It's really exciting to be a Buffalo football player right now."
It certainly could be for Scott and the other seniors. They have been at this so long, done so much, traveled such a jarring road with nothing tangible to show for it. There are two final obstacles starting at 1 p.m. today on Senior Day against Bowling Green (6-4, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) at UB Stadium (Radio 550 AM).
With a win today, UB (4-6, 4-2) will be tied for first place in the MAC East with Miami (Ohio), which defeated Akron on Wednesday, 7-0, to gain sole possession of first place in the division. If the Bulls defeat the Falcons today the MAC East race will go down to the final week of the regular season with UB traveling to play Kent State and Miami playing Ohio University on the road.
The Bulls need to beat Bowling Green and Kent, and Miami to lose to Ohio to win the divisional title. If that happens, a seven-week march from doubt to assurance will be achieved.
"It comes down to a two-game season for us," said UB coach Turner Gill, whose team is coming off a bye week. "Hopefully, we'll have an opportunity for a third or fourth game."
The Bulls started the season 1-4, but have bounced back to win three of five. Throughout the league, there's a newfound respect for UB football.
"Buffalo is an entirely new team," said Bowling Green defensive tackle Sean O'Drobinak. "They are a good football team now. In years past we had this long bus ride to play a bad football team, but that is not the case anymore. They are going to come out jacked up. This is a very important game for them. We just have to come out and match their intensity."
The oddsmakers, nevertheless, have made it an even game. With a 3-2 divisional record, the Falcons are out of the MAC East race but wins over the next two weeks would only strengthen their resume for a bowl bid.
Bowling Green has won three of its last four, including back-to-back victories over Akron and Eastern Michigan. The Falcons finish up the regular season next week against rival Toledo.
"Lose one of them, then I think it is going to be a beauty contest," said Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon. "Lose both and we probably are not going to a bowl. I think everybody in the country is getting bowl eligible. It is nice to be bowl eligible for this team I think at this point; it's a huge credit bouncing back from last season. Winning six games right now I think is big for this program."
In their last meeting, Bowling Green won a wild 48-40 game in three overtimes. That loss prevented UB from starting the season 2-0 for the first time since 1981. The game, which was twice delayed by lightening, lasted five hours, 18 minutes and featured six lead changes.
The way last season's game ended, with the MAC East title on the line and the seniors playing their final game at UB Stadium, the Bulls have more than enough motivation to perform well today.
"I just want to win out," Scott said. "This one is going to be really important because this is going to be the last one that I play in UB Stadium. . . . This game is going to stick with you forever because this is your senior game. You don't get another senior game."