Back in 1993, 11-year-old Aaron Sanders and his mother were driving along Millersport Highway in Amherst, where UB Stadium was being built.
"I just happened to see it and I told my Mom, 'Look, I want to play in that stadium someday,' " Sanders remembered. "Now I have the opportunity to do it and I'm pretty lucky in that respect."
Sanders, a junior defensive end, was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lackluster performance by the University at Buffalo, 33-7 losers to Kent State on Saturday. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound St. Joe's product finished with seven tackles while lifting his team-best totals in sacks (5 1/2 ) and tackles for a loss (9 1/2 ) and recording his third fumble recovery, which ties him for the team lead with senior free safety J.J. Gibson (Sweet Home).
One of the Bulls' most improved players, Sanders, a former walk-on, is the leading tackler among defensive linemen with 38.
"I'm just putting forth the effort after getting an opportunity to play," Sanders said. "You have to take advantage of every snap you get."
A former All-Western New York selection, Sanders was recruited by several Ivy League schools before deciding to walk on at UB and fulfill his childhood dream. He has been one of the Bulls' most consistent players along the line and earned MAC player of the week honors with his seven-tackle, two-sack performance against Eastern Michigan in the season opener.
Sanders also had a fumble recovery and forced a fumble that Phil Jacques returned 19 yards for a touchdown in that game.
"I'm just trying to go out there and play to the best of my ability and make things happen," Sanders said.
If there was a flaw in Kent State's performance, it was on PATs. The Golden Flashes missed their first three, one of which was blocked by UB's Ramon Guzman. Winds of up to 35 mph were a factor, but Kent State coach Doug Martin said holder Antwan Smith wasn't catching the ball. Everything was fine once quarterback Joshua Cribbs became the holder.
"I had a full head of hair when we started the season, but that kicking game just about wore me out," Martin said.
UB received another uninspiring performance from its quarterbacks. Starter P.J. Piskorik and Datwan Hemingway combined to complete only 10 of 20 for 112 yards and one touchdown. They were also sacked five times.
The Bulls usually lean on their running game but managed a season-low 4 yards on 31 carries. Two weeks ago at Marshall, the Bulls rushed for 202 yards.
"Anytime you hold a team like Buffalo to 4 yards, you've had a tremendous day," Martin said. "It was outstanding defense."
UB linebacker James Vann recorded a personal-high nine tackles to tie linebacker Bryan Cummings and Gibson for team-high honors. . . . Defensive end Anthony Andriano had one tackle for a loss, giving him 21 for his career.