It's been nine years since Jerry Boyes roamed the sidelines at Coyer Field, headset on, play book in hand.
The return was special for a number of reasons, some nostalgic, but mostly because the Buffalo State football team took a turn toward redemption with a 37-26 win over Western Connecticut State in front of 2,526 Saturday afternoon.
It was Homecoming Weekend, Parents Weekend and Hall of Fame weekend with the return of about 50 football players from the Bengals' glorious past.
"We had quite a discussion [with the football alumni] about where we are," said Boyes, who coached from 1986 to 2000 and spent the last nine years concentrating on his athletic director duties before returning to lead the football team this season. "I relayed a lot of things they had to say back to our players because there are things we just haven't got yet. We're not there yet. This I hope will go a long ways. One game does not make a season."
The team seemed to take the message to heart, earning its first win after two losses.
It was an inauspicious start as Western Connecticut (0-3) opened the game with Lionel Assie's 86-yard kickoff return for a 6-0 lead.
But the Bengals responded as sophomore quarterback Kenny Murphy (Lancaster) hit Sherman Nelson (Cardinal O'Hara) for a 45-yard TD play.
Murphy connected with Ben Mauer for a 19-yard scoring play while senior Willie Hordge had touchdown runs of 5 and 6 yards, helping the Bengals to a 27-13 halftime lead.
The mix of run and pass was effective for the Bengals as Murphy threw for 236 yards, completing 13 of his 29 passes, while Hordge rushed for 107 yards on 26 carries.
"[Saturday] everything was clicking," Murphy said. "Everything was on. Our line did just amazing. They were outstanding for us. They ate up so much time at the end when it was important, grinding out those tough yards."
The Colonials closed the gap to 27-20 midway through the third quarter on an 8-yard run by Wayne Neal.
But the Bengals responded with a 21-yard field goal by Nick Debbins (Lancaster) and Hordge punched in his third touchdown of the day in the fourth quarter, capping a 71-yard, 13-play drive that consumed seven minutes.
"In the first two games we hadn't responded to adversity very well," Boyes said. "We saw what you see in young men who are used to losing -- bad play, oh here we go again. They don't have the fortitude to come back and say, 'so what'? The response to [adversity] was great. I'm encouraged by that."
ECC falls to 1-3
While there were bright spots, Erie Community College dropped a 26-24 decision to Nassau CC in Garden City.
"We found a quarterback -- Tyheen Taylor from New York City," ECC coach Dennis Greene said. "He played fantastic and we finally found the right offensive line. We were moving the ball, but we missed a field goal and had an extra point blocked. It was one of those games where we saw a lot of good stuff and that made it hard to take.
"Everything is correctable. Now that we've found the pieces it's up to the kids to buy in and do the right things."
The Kats will host Hudson Valley CC at noon Saturday at Jim Ball Stadium.