The season-opener turned into a nightmare for the University at Buffalo.
Senior quarterback Grant Rohach threw an interception on his first pass of the game and had two pickoffs in the first quarter.
The Bulls lost the turnover battle, 4-0.
And UB’s young defensive backfield gave up two long plays to allow a decisive fourth-quarter touchdown.
It all added up to an embarrassing, 22-16, defeat to the University of Albany at UB Stadium.
It was UB’s first loss to a lower-division, Football Championship Subdivision opponent since 2003 – the bad, old days in the Bulls program’s infancy. UB had beaten FCS foes in the season-opener each of the previous seven years and routed Albany, 51-14, last season.
“Obviously way too many mistakes tonight,” said a somber UB coach Lance Leipold. “The margin for error isn’t very big when you keep giving them chances.”
“We’ve got 11 more games, and we’ve got to practice next week,” said running back Jordan Johnson. “We’ve gotta do better. We’ve gotta play better. At the same time we’ve gotta stick together.”
“I’m surprised, I’m stunned, but we have to come out next week and get ready to play Nevada,” said defensive end Brandon Crawford.
UB has 14 days off before playing at Nevada on Sept. 17.
The Bulls outgained Albany, 403-238, and held a 23-12 edge in first downs.
But Albany protected the ball and didn’t allow UB to make many big-gainers. UB had only two runs of more than 20 yards (24 and 21 yards). A 21-yard pass was UB’s only pass play of more than 20 yards.
Rohach, the senior from Iowa State, put the Bulls in a hole before being benched in favor of redshirt freshman Tyree Jackson.
His first pass attempt was intercepted by Albany middle linebacker Michael Nicastro and returned 38 yards to the UB 7. That set up a 5-yard Albany TD pass just 2:03 into the game. Rohach stared down an outside receiver on a curl route, and Nicastro undercut the pass.
Late in the first quarter, Rohach threw another interception in UB territory. It was on a short hitch pass to the left for Kamathi Holsey.
Cornerback Jamal Robinson read the quarterback’s eyes and jumped the route at the UB 21. UB’s defense bailed Rohach out by preventing a score. Rohach finished the first half 3 of 9 for 52 yards with two interceptions. He directed six drives and produced one field goal.
UB’s defense was mostly solid – except in the fourth quarter.
Albany marched 81 yards in seven plays to take a 22-16 lead with 9:37 left in the game.
The Great Danes scored on a 35-yard pass from Neven Sussman to Brad Harris. Sophomore cornerback Tatum Slack got fooled on a double-move pattern down the sideline. Albany completed a 24-yard sideline pass to a wide-open receiver on the play before the go-ahead TD.
“It’s a great win for us, and I’m excited about it,” said Albany coach Greg Gattuso. “It think it’s a lesson for us. If we do things right, we can compete with any team. They had some new people today, and we were able to exploit some of that. We played with the younger quarterback last year. He made some mistakes. Those things happen.”