It is becoming a ritual that's all too familiar for the University at Buffalo.
Another game, another slow measured postgame walk from the field into the tunnel. Some players have their chins buried into their chests while others glance at the scoreboard, hoping somehow the numbers will change in their favor.
Unlike last season, when the Bulls won one of the more memorable games in school history, they didn't play well enough to win Saturday. Not with five turnovers.
The defending Mid-American Conference champions made their climb back to the top a little steeper following a devastating 37-13 loss to Temple in front of 13,949 at Lincoln Financial Field.
"This is very frustrating," said senior wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt, one of the few bright spots in the game with nine receptions for 120 yards. "I thought we had a good practice, we were prepared and we didn't show that so it was definitely frustrating for us."
After Temple linebacker Elijah "Peanut" Joseph returned a Zach Maynard interception 95 yards for a touchdown just before halftime, it was all downhill for the Owls (1-2, 1-0 MAC), who defeated UB (1-3, 0-1) for the first time since joining the league two years ago. This certainly didn't look like the Temple team that lost to Football Championship Subdivision Villanova in its season opener or the one that was blown away by Penn State last weekend. The Owls looked more like a team to watch in the MAC.
"Obviously they are the reigning MAC champ so from that standpoint it is significant," said Temple coach Al Golden about his first career victory over the Bulls. "But when we come [this] morning, it is just one win and it is a good win but it is only one win and it only counts as one."
As for UB, if last week's loss at Central Florida was not enough to press the panic button in Amherst, Saturday's loss is assured to raise fear among even the most buoyant observers.
The season could be unraveling with Central Michigan on tap for this weekend. Considering the way UB is playing, the only saving grace is that the Bulls play their next three games at UB Stadium. Even with games against Central Michigan, Gardner-Webb and Akron at home, this figures to be a huge test for coach Turner Gill.
"Every week is a challenge," Gill said. "It's a challenge to be able to play well every week. . . . It will be interesting to see how our players respond."
If Gill could put a halt to one negative aspect it would be turnovers.
The Bulls committed five turnovers, and Maynard was responsible for all five -- four interceptions and one fumble.
"My performance was poor," said Maynard, who was 26 of 41 for 281 yards and one touchdown. "I felt like I made bad decisions with the ball. Ball security -- we talked about that all week going into this week -- we have to take care of the ball on offense and get the defense off the field."
After a promising start in games against Texas-El Paso and Pittsburgh it's been a harrowing two weeks for Maynard, the sophomore from Greensboro, N.C., who is in his first season as a starter. He's had a hand in seven turnovers the last two games.
"I'm trying to anticipate too much and trying to get the ball there before [the receivers] make their break," he said. "The [Temple] defense did a good job of jumping routes and getting in the way of balls. I have to make better decisions."
But Gill said it's more than just turnovers, it's also about running the ball better. The Bulls rushed for just 99 yards on 30 carries for an average of 3.3 yards. After gaining 150 yards on the ground at UTEP, the Bulls have rushed for a grand total of 252 yards over the last three games.
"You have put yourself in a situation where you don't have to throw the ball as much," Gill said. "Zach is going to have to do some things better too but I don't see it all on him."
Indeed, there was James Nixon's 92-yard kickoff return in the second quarter for the game's first touchdown after UB had tied the game at 6-6. The Owls, who ranked in the nation's bottom 10 in rushing at 92.5 yards a game, received 116 yards and a touchdown from true freshman tailback Bernard Pierce, whose previous high was 44 yards against Villanova.
"The whole team has to improve," Gill said. "Offense, defense and special teams."
The game's tenor changed dramatically in the final seconds of the second quarter, when Maynard threw his first interception. On second-and-2 at the Temple 13, Joseph intercepted Maynard's pass over the middle and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown with seven seconds left in the half. It was the longest return in Temple history. That gave the Owls a 20-6 halftime lead and ignited what would eventually become a rout.
Expectations were high at UB even without Drew Willy and the late summer loss of James Starks but the learning curve has become slower than imagined.
"We have to be men about how we lost the game and who was the better team [Saturday]," said senior free safety Mike Newton. "We have to work hard, that's how we'll get better."
Temple 37, UB 13