Once his players were finished wiping the tears from their cheeks in defeat, after all momentum shifts and mood swings, after the crazy plays and ridiculous numbers that came with a homecoming game for the ages, UB coach Lance Leipold still had room in his heart for sympathy.
Leipold stepped away from the chaos and the competiveness during one of the seven overtimes to remind his coaches how incredible it was to be part of the highest-scoring football game in NCAA history. He looked toward the stands and realized fewer than the 17,048 who were there in the beginning stayed until the end.
"I feel sorry for the people that left," Leipold said. "To watch it happen with two-point conversions and two-point stops and field goals and missed field goals and all that stuff – the emotional roller coaster to be on – you fumble and then you get a stop, all the things that happened, what a great deal."
What a fantastic game.
Western Michigan won, 71-68, in an epic football game that lasted 4 hours and 31 minutes before ending with a basketball score. It was so absurd that many coaches and players on both teams had trouble recalling what happened over four quarters leading into a 31-31 tie in regulation.
"It hurts," Bulls receiver K.J. Osborn said. "A loss is supposed to hurt. We came up short. Our goal is to win. They scored 71 or 72, then we have to score 73."
Yes, he was serious.
Let's start with the video-game stats, which reveal only part of a story that played out before a national television audience on ESPNU:
The 139 points scored by the two teams was the most in FBS history. More amazing than the point total was that UB didn't even break a school record for most points in a game. The Bulls scored 81 points in a shutout over Hobart in 1918. Less surprising was that Buffalo now holds the record for most points by a losing team.
Buffalo and Western Michigan combined for 1,328 total yards – 866 yards passing and 12 touchdown passes. LeVante Bellamy scored on a 66-yard run on the third play of the game, but that was long forgotten after Western Michigan accounted for 376 yards rushing, including 120 yards on the ground in overtime.
How could anyone pull themselves away from such a slugfest on a beautiful afternoon that turned into a gorgeous evening for football at UB Stadium?
Drew Anderson threw for a Mid-American Conference record 597 yards passing after completing 35 of 61 passes and a conference record-tying seven touchdowns. He completed 25 of 41 passes for 474 yards and three TDs in regulation. He also scored one touchdown rushing and caught a two-point conversion.
Anderson threw four passes that accounted for 242 yards and two touchdowns in the first four quarters. The junior backup hooked up with Kamithi Holsey for 72 yards on their first play from scrimmage, a 64-yard TD to Jacob Martinez, a 53-yard catch and run with Anthony Johnson and a 54-yard gem to Osborn.
For the first time in school history, UB had three players with more than 100 yards receiving. Johnson finished with 11 catches for 195 yards and two TDs, Holsey had six catches for 143 yards and one score and Osborn had seven receptions for 138 yards and three touchdowns.
UB survived its own version of the butt-fumble when Theo Anderson coughed up the ball near the goal line after slamming into guard Tomas Jack-Kurdyla. Western Michigan's Adam Grant missed a 29-yard field goal after a bad snap on the next possession, giving UB yet another chance to win the game.
"We were locked in because the game was going," Osborn said. "But when we fumbled and they missed the field goal, I kind of stopped and was like, 'I don't know what's going on? I don’t know what overtime this is. … It was a blur. So many plays happened. It was definitely a blur."
And there's this number: 1.
That was how many sisters jumped out of the stands to congratulate her brother – an unofficial record for both teams – after believing he scored the winning touchdown in the first overtime. In fact, it was just getting started.
Donnie Ernsberger pushed his sister off the field because his 14-yard catch didn't end the game. She was the only one who didn't appear on the stat sheet. Little did she know that the game, by then more than three hours long, was evolving into the longest run-on sentence in history.
Jon Wassink hit Keishawn Watson with a 13-yard touchdown pass before Johnson made a one-handed snag on a 25-yarder for UB before Franklin scored from the 2 for Western before a failed conversion before Osborn caught a 4-yard pass from Anderson before a failed conversion before Anderson scored from the 2 and Adam Mitcheson gave UB a 68-65 lead with a 25-yard field goal before …
Would it ever end?
Finally, with the Broncos needing a field goal to tie, with fans watching the game expecting as much and hoping the game continued deep into the night, Franklin found a hole in the middle of UB's defense and stretched across the goal line, leaving the Bulls in tears as they attempted to digest the outcome.
The game that seemed like it lasted forever ended so abruptly that neither team was quite sure how to respond when it did. Western Michigan celebrated before quickly exiting to the visitors' locker room. The Bulls dragged themselves off the field, physically exhausted, emotionally spent and reduced to tears.
Never mind who won and who lost.
Here's the real score: Someday, they'll look back knowing they participated in one of the most entertaining games in the history of college football.
"This was probably the most exciting game I've ever been a part of," Leipold said, his voice cracking with emotion. "We battled and battled and didn't make enough plays there at the end and came up a little bit short. … At one point, the coaches were like, 'This is awesome. Tell me who has seen a better game.'"