Andrae Smith certainly didn't look like a defensive end when he returned a blocked point-after attempt by Domonic Cook 95 yards for a two-point defensive conversion in the University at Buffalo's 32-19 triumph over Ohio University on Tuesday night.
"I just stayed disciplined and never gave up on the play, like Coach says," said Smith, a 6-foot-4, 257-pound senior from Bloomfield, Conn. "I was in the right place at the right time. No one was going to catch me. . . . It was a long run, I'm not used to those."
Smith, who also added a sack, pressured Bobcats quarterback Boo Jackson into his only interception of the game late in the second quarter. Cook intercepted the pass and took it 39 yards to the Ohio 34, which set up an A.J. Principe field goal from 25 yards out.
"Coach let us loose with the pass rush and I saw a window," Smith said. "I hit him as he let the ball go."
It's been a long road back for Smith. He missed his redshirt freshman season in 2004 with an injury and sat out the 2006 season with a knee injury.
"It feels great," Smith said of his return. "I love UB, I love doing it for the community and it feels good to contribute finally."
Smith's defensive two-point conversion was UB's first since Nov. 18, 1995, when Eric Lee returned a two-point conversion 102 yards against Boston University.
"That gave us a little momentum," UB coach Turner Gill said of Smith's return, which extended UB's lead to 26-13. "It was great to see him finish that play out."
Cook bugged special teams coach Aaron Stamn enough that he finally let the former St. Joe's standout return a kickoff.
"I went back early in the season and kept talking to them week by week and I guess they decided to finally throw me back there," Cook said. "I was joking around and telling him, 'If you want a touchdown, just throw me back there, I'm waiting.' "
Cook wasn't exactly true to his word, but he did spin away from a couple of tackles on his 19-yard return in the second half.
Ohio has had trouble with ball security all season, and against UB the Bobcats committed seven fumbles and lost four.
"I don't use the word turnovers, I use the word takeaways," Gill said.
Sophomore linebacker Justin Winters forced two fumbles, including one into the end zone on Ohio's opening drive, and Sherrod Lott and Chris Storr had one each. Cook, Davonte Shannon, Mike Thompson and Ray Anthony Long all had fumble recoveries for the Bulls.
UB defensive tackles coach Vantz Singletary had a long talk with his uncle, new San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary, before Mike took the job two weeks ago.
"The thing that was mostly important to him was getting Mike Nolan's blessing," Vantz said about Nolan, who was fired and replaced by Singletary. "For Mike Nolan to bless it, he was really excited about that. It's something he's wanted to do for some time now and the good Lord has blessed him to be the Niners coach."
Vantz said his uncle is enthusiastic about his first head coaching job, especially with a storied franchise like the 49ers.
"He has to manage players and coaches and deal with people in the organization like the GM," Vantz said. "But he's prepared."