To get where it has never gone before, Buffalo State must get by a team it has never beaten.
The Bengals (9-2) travel to Glassboro, N.J., Saturday to face long-time nemesis Rowan College (8-2) in the East Region final of the NCAA Division III football playoffs (Noon, Radio 91.3 FM).
A victory would give the Bengals their first 10-win season and first appearance in the national semifinals.
"This is a chance to make a little history," Buffalo State coach Jerry Boyes said. "We're certainly looking forward to the opportunity."
The Bengals have made the NCAA playoffs six times in the last seven years, but last Saturday's 38-35 win at Springfield was just the team's second win in seven NCAA games and first since 1992.
The reason for the poor record is Rowan, which has made it to the Division III championship game three times in the '90s. The Profs, who are 4-0 against the Bengals in the NCAA playoffs, added a 28-21 victory at Buffalo State earlier this season.
The Bengals have won five straight since that loss, but the players say that doesn't mean anything unless they can end Rowan's hex over them.
"I've lost to them three times in my career, so that's pretty frustrating," said senior split end Craig Dana (Kenmore West). "This game means a lot to the eight seniors on this team because this is the last time we'll have a chance to beat Rowan. We don't want our careers to end without at least one win over those guys."
With the exception of a 21-20 first-round loss in 1996, Buffalo State has not given Rowan much of a challenge. In fact, the Profs' average margin of victory is a whopping 27 points.
Big plays by Rowan has usually been the difference. The Profs' explosiveness keyed their 26-2 victory at the College of New Jersey last Saturday. Despite trailing in time of possession, Rowan scored touchdowns of 39, 67, 46 and 31 yards.
Quarterback Gus Orstein, who played at Notre Dame and Michigan State before transferring to Rowan, completed just seven passes last week for 249 yards and three touchdowns. He lit up the Bengals in the previous meeting, completing 19 of 25 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown.
The Bengals also didn't have an answer for receivers Traman Bryant and David Trinidad, who combined for 15 catches and 246 yards, or tailback Justin Wright, who scored three touchdowns.
"Rowan is a team that thrives off the big play," Buffalo State linebacker Scott Hausauer said. "They have great athletes at the skill positions and they don't make a lot of mistakes. We'll have to play a very disciplined game, but we also have to be really aggressive and get after them because they will try to do the same to us."
Buffalo State won't have the only defense under pressure Saturday. Rowan has three shutouts and held two others to nine points or less, but the Bengals' offense has been on a roll lately.
There aren't many quarterbacks as hot as Chris Henry (Niagara-Wheatfield). The sophomore has passed for 691 yards and six touchdowns the last two games. Henry has a pair of terrific receivers.
Dana, the school's all-time leader in catches, made 10 of them for 187 yards against Springfield. Sophomore flanker Derek Baker (South Park), the single-season yardage leader, gained 120 on five receptions last week and has 377 yards on 15 catches the past two games. Tight end Melvin Parris caught a pair of touchdowns and little-used Tom Shamp grabbed another.
Buffalo State's running game has been overshadowed during Henry's hot streak, but sophomore tailbacks Deon Foendoe (1,063 yards, eight touchdowns) and Shawn Starks (743 yards, 13 TDs) are enough to make Rowan sweat.
"We did a good job against Buffalo State's offense (267 total yards) the last time we played them," Rowan coach K.C. Keeler said. "But that was several weeks ago. They are playing much better now, and they've got so many weapons you can't key on just one thing.
"We've never lost to them, so I'm sure they will come in here sky-high looking to end the streak. We have to somehow match the intensity Buffalo State will bring to this game."