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Hawkins isn't happy about his play in return

The stats indicate that Kendric Hawkins made an impact in his first game back after missing the University at Buffalo's first five games. But the junior cornerback thinks otherwise.

Hawkins, playing for the first time this season after recovering from a foot injury, finished with eight tackles in the Bulls' 34-28 overtime loss to Western Michigan on Saturday at UB Stadium.

"I didn't play too good at all," said a dejected Hawkins. "I didn't make a play when I had to make a play, I didn't reroute on the Cover 2, I didn't do a lot of things right. It hurts real bad."

One play stands out in particular. Hawkins was covering wide receiver Jamarko Simmons on the game-tying touchdown that sent the game into overtime.

"I should have made a play on the ball," Hawkins said.

It's been a while since Hawkins has played. He missed all of spring football with a knee injury suffered playing pickup basketball and he's been hindered by the foot injury since the end of training camp. But he isn't using his injures, or lack of activity, as an excuse.

"If I'm in the game I have to play, regardless," he said. "How long I've been out doesn't matter. If I'm out there I have to do something, I've got to make a play. I was out there, I have to make a play."

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One area Turner Gill walked away pleased with was the Bulls' three takeaways. Coming into Saturday's game, the Bulls had forced nine turnovers -- tied for fifth in the Mid-American Conference with Central Michigan -- including five fumbles, but three came against Missouri.

"You get three turnovers, that's excellent," he said. "The defense played really well to get the turnovers. We play a lot of great offenses in this conference and you have to play from start to finish."

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Take away James Starks' 66-yard touchdown run and the Bulls averaged 2.6 yards a carry rushing, an indication that the running game still isn't where it needs to be.

"We have to get our guys right technique-wise," Gill said. "We have to hang our hat on two or three plays which we thought we had, but we have to keep working hard."

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A big momentum shifter was Justin Winters' roughing-the-passer penalty that negated Mike Newton's interception for a touchdown that would have given the Bulls a 28-6 lead. Western Michigan went on to score to cut UB's lead to 21-14 after a two-point conversion.

"You can't do it, you can't make any kind of hit toward the head of the quarterback," Gill said. "The rules state that if you do it, it's going to get called."

Gill admitted the play was an emotional swing.

"That deflates you a little bit defensively," Gill said. "Plus we had to take Mike Newton out for a couple of plays because he just ran 60, 70 or 80 yards or whatever it was because he was tired."

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The Bulls and Broncos met for the fourth time and the second time in UB Stadium. The Broncos now lead the series 4-0. . . . The 16-play, 80-yard scoring drive for UB in the first quarter was its longest scoring drive of the season surpassing a 15-play, 73-yard drive against Pittsburgh.

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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