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Fardon didn't envision costly mistake; Yes, he missed the kick, but blaming him alone would have been a gross injustice

Peter Fardon wouldn't repeat what was going through his mind while taking the long, lonely walk back to the University at Buffalo sideline after missing the kick. It was probably better that he held his tongue because the crowd that watched in stunned silence at UB Stadium could have heard anything he said above a whisper.

To say he was extremely angry would be an understatement, so we'll assume his thoughts were inappropriate for the newspaper. Obviously, he was furious after missing an extra point with 14 seconds that would have tied the game for UB after it came back from a 31-10 deficit in the fourth quarter against Northern Illinois.

Every athlete has envisioned such moments, but they always make the game-winning shot with the clock winding down or hit the winning grand slam in the bottom of the ninth. Fardon imagined himself in similar situations many times, but he had to wait longer than most for his opportunity.

The former rugby player is 29 years old, the oldest player in Division I football. He arrived from Australia with the idea he could become a kicker or punter. He was UB's punter last season. He had a terrific view as a holder while his friend, A.J. Principe, kicked his way into the record books as the Bulls' all-time leading scorer.

Fardon's moment came Saturday after UB scored three touchdowns in the final 13 minutes to draw within 31-30 against the fourth-highest scoring team in the nation. He had been shaky, but the extra point still figured to be a gimme and overtime a certainty. The snap was there. The hold wasn't perfect, but it was good enough.

Fardon stepped into the kick and pulled it left.

"Disbelief," he said. "You double-check and blink your eyes and sort of think, 'Did that just happen?' It did happen. I let everyone down. My job is to put it through the middle, and I didn't do that."

Fardon took responsibility for the loss, which was noble enough. He's a good guy and was eager to make himself accountable afterward. It's probably better someone like him, with many more years of experience and perspective, made the gaffe rather than some fragile 18-year-old freshman who would have crumbled after such a loss.

Yes, he missed the kick, but blaming him alone would have been a gross injustice. The kick was merely a fitting end to a disastrous day on special teams for the Bulls. It's a shame, really, considering how well they played in the other areas.

Buffalo muffed three punts. Receiver Ed Young had two punts get away from him, cornerback Courtney Lester another. Fielding a punt cleanly became such an event that mystified coach Jeff Quinn sent out fourth-stringer Devon Hughes under strict orders to simply catch the ball without attempting a return.

And it didn't end there.

UB pulled within 31-24 with 4:14 remaining in the game after quarterback Chazz Anderson, who was brilliant Saturday, found Marcus Rivers for a touchdown. Sure enough, the ensuing kickoff sailed out of bounds, giving Northern Illinois the ball at the 40. UB had five turnovers. And it still had a chance to send the game into overtime.

"It's unacceptable," Quinn said. "Completely unacceptable."

Actually, it was incredible.

It must have been maddening for Quinn to watch his team march the ball up and down the field for much of the game Saturday.

Anderson had 404 yards passing, a UB record since its move to Division I, and 56 yards rushing. He had three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and ran for the other in the second quarter. He completed one pass left-handed, connecting with Young for 18 yards while scrambling to his left.

Running back Branden Oliver ran for 112 yards. Rivers finished with 10 catches for 114 yards. The Bulls had 572 yards in total offense and handled Northern Illinois in every category but the score. Hanging with the Huskies and losing could help UB down the road, but it doesn't do much for Buffalo in the standings.

The good news is that UB never backed down. Many teams would have folded after falling into a 21-point hole, but the Bulls continued playing when all looked lost early in the fourth quarter. They gave up 31 points, but their defense was superb when it should have been tired late in the game.

Buffalo kept coming and put itself in position in the end. It's something the Bulls can take away from their game Saturday. They stayed together and stood alongside Fardon when it mattered most, after the game, when it felt like he was alone.

"If I hit the game-winner, it would just be my play at the end of the game," he said. "When it's the other way, you flip it. You take it personally. I'm not shying away from it. I made a huge mistake that cost us a chance to win. It's completely unacceptable."

email: bgleason@buffnews.com