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Bulls' team from '58 gets a warm reception this time

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The City of Orlando welcomed the 1958 University of Buffalo team with open arms.

UB won the Lambert Cup in 1958 and was invited to play Florida State in the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, but the team turned down the bid after it learned that its two African-American players, Willie Evans and Mike Wilson, would not be allowed to play.

It was the school's only bowl bid until last season, when the Bulls won the Mid-American Conference and earned a bid to the International Bowl in Toronto. The '58 team joined the Bulls in Toronto for the entire week.

Earlier this year Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty wanted the region to make amends. He called Central Florida, which called Florida Citrus Sports, which runs the Capital One and Champs Sports bowls, to see what could be done for the 1958 Bulls when UB came to town.

AirTran Airways donated airfare to team members and a sign near the entrance of the Orlando International Airport read: "Welcome 1958 Buffalo Bulls." When the players arrived at their hotel Friday, the staff at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando greeted the team with a standing ovation and hosted a reception for the team Friday night. Finally on Saturday during halftime of the UB-UCF game, the team was honored.

"I wondered if there was some way to reach those members of that 1958 football team, to honor them for taking a stand against discrimination and to show them that we truly have come a long way over the past 50 years," Crotty told the Orlando Sentinel. "Sometimes I guess things are just meant to be."

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The Bulls finished with four turnovers in Saturday's loss to Central Florida. It's UB's second straight game in which it has given the ball away that many times.

Before turning the ball over four times in its home-opening loss to Pittsburgh on Sept. 12, UB had gone 23 straight games without committing more than three turnovers in a game.

Not surprisingly, UB is 0-6 under coach Turner Gill when they turn the ball over four or more times in a game.

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Justin Winters and Kenny Scott pounced on fumbles for the Bulls on Saturday. The fumble recoveries are UB's first two takeaways of the season after ranking among the national leaders in 2008 with 33 turnovers gained.

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The swine flu outbreak that has ripped through college football programs of late has left some coaches wondering if a significant number of their players will be brought down by the virus. No one with the UB team has been hit with the virus, which coach Gill addressed during training camp in August.

"We can't really do a whole lot about it until we get all the vaccines," Gill said. "We told our guys that if they have certain symptoms for them to speak up and don't hesitate. Go see a trainer, go get to a doctor and get it checked out."

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Sophomore quarterback Zach Maynard and senior receivers Naaman Roosevelt and Brett Hamlin were all in the top 10 nationally in various offensive categories entering Saturday's game.

Hamlin ranked eighth in the nation in receptions per game at 7.5 after his breakout 12-catch performance against Pittsburgh. Maynard was ninth in the nation in passing efficiency at 180.47 and Roosevelt was ninth in receiving yards per game at 124.

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UB has seven players on its roster who are natives of Florida and five are true freshmen: Peter Gagliardi (Miami), defensive back Carlos Lammons (Pahokee), linebacker Khalil Mack (Fort Pierce), tailback Branden Oliver (Miami) and offensive lineman Rick Perez (Miami). The others are Hamlin (Jupiter) and junior cornerback Sherrod Lott (Plant City).

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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