More than anything, James Starks wanted the University at Buffalo seniors to go out with a winning season and a bowl game. That's why becoming only the fourth player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season is a bittersweet moment.
The sophomore from Niagara Falls rushed for 137 yards on 21 carries in the Bulls' 31-17 loss to Bowling Green on Saturday. Starks' 63-yard run in the third quarter pushed him over the 1,000-yard mark and he now has 1,049 yards for the season.
"I guess it's good for the program, but I really don't feel happy," Starks said. "I'm kind of sad about the seniors leaving. I guess it's a good thing, but I'm kind of mad that we didn't get them the win."
Over time, Starks will look back and treasure his accomplishment. Only three other players in the program's history -- O.D. Underwood (1986), Alan Bell (1991) and Anthony Swan (1996) -- have rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season, and Starks became the first to do so in the Division I-A era. Starks reached the mark after starting the season slowly with only 226 yards after five games.
During the last six games, Starks has rushed for 852 yards and eight touchdowns. Starks also scored his 12th rushing touchdown of the season, tying him for third in single-season rushing scores with Lee Jones (1967) and Pat Whitehead (1962). He needs 141 yards next week against Kent State to become UB's single-season rushing leader.
And with two years remaining, Starks' opponents might be the ones who are saddened in the future.
Another headache for UB opponents is sophomore wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt, who had a career-best 148 yards and six receptions Saturday, including a long of 47 yards. The former St. Joe's standout has 676 receiving yards, the highest total at the school since Andre Forde's 748 yards in 2002.
The only player with a 1,000-yard receiving season at UB is Drew Haddad, who did it twice (1997 and '99). Starks and Roosevelt, both high school quarterbacks, have played their current positions only since coming to UB.
"James and Naaman are playmakers, guys you want to get the ball to and let them do their thing," said UB coach Turner Gill. "We've been very, very blessed and fortunate to have them. They're young guys, too. They're only sophomores and they're only going to get better."
Don Loding, the International Bowl executive director, attended Saturday's game to scout UB and Bowling Green although the Bulls were officially eliminated from bowl contention.
The Falcons, on the other hand, made a strong case by winning their seventh game of the season and their third in a row. Bowling Green ends its regular season next week against rival Toledo.
"This game means everything to me and the team," said Falcons linebacker Glenn Stanley.
UB is in talks with Connecticut to start a four-year, home-and-home series beginning in 2010. . . . Junior quarterback Drew Willy has not thrown an interception in his last 191 pass attempts. With 19 completions, Willy is now the UB single-season completions record holder with 224 for the year. The previous record was 218 set by Chad Salisbury in 1997. Willy has thrown for 2,238 yards this season, the fourth-most passing yards by a UB quarterback in a single season. . . . Junior Ernest Jackson tied a career high with six receptions. Jackson previously had six at Penn State on September 15. . . . True freshman A.J. Principe connected on his 12th field goal of the season, tying for the third-best mark in school history with Dallas Pelz in 2001. . . . Starks threw his first career pass, a completion to Chris Scharon for 5 yards in the first half. . . . With his ninth tackle of the game, true freshman Davonte Shannon became just the fourth Bull to record 100 or more tackles in the Division I-A era. Shannon had 11 tackles in the game and has 102 for the season.