AMHERST, Mass. – University at Buffalo senior cornerback Cortney Lester closed his career with a strong game against the leading receiver in the Mid-American Conference and finished No. 2 on the Bulls list for career pass breakups.
Lester had two passes defended in UB’s 41-21 rout of Massachusetts Friday. That gave him 38 for his career, tied with Najja Johnson and one behind Gemara Williams in UB history. Johnson’s career ended last season, Williams’ ended in 2005.
Lester held UMass wideout Tajae Sharpe to four catches for just 36 yards. Sharpe finished the season with 85 catches for 1,281 yards.
“When we started playing Miami, they started rotating me to the best receiver all the time, and I took pride in that because they trusted me,” Lester said.
“I think Cortney’s gotten better each week and gotten more and more confidence,” said UB interim head coach Alex Wood. “He got his hands on some balls today, and we applied some pressure, which made the guy throw it off time.”
“For the past three, four years Buffalo hasn’t won the last game of the season,” Lester said. “We made a statement about it before we traveled, we said we had to come and win as a team. Along with the previous class . . . I feel like we’ve instilled that into the younger players - having camaraderie, being a team and showing leadership.”
UB had 11 seniors making the final start of their career. Three of them – left guard Andre Davis, inside linebacker Lee Skinner and Lester - started since their freshman years. Davis and Skinner each started 48 games. Lester started 47.
UB’s other senior starters, with games started: receiver Devon Hughes (16), left tackle Jake Silas (24), center Trevor Sales (36), defensive linemen Kristjan Sokoli (25) and Tedroy Lynch (11), linebacker Jake Stockman (19), and safeties Adam Redden (21) and Witney Sherry (18).
Redden entered the game leading the Mid-American Conference in tackles for loss with 14. He added a half a tackle for loss among his eight stops, and three of his tackles were at the line of scrimmage for no gain.
Devin Campbell moved into second place on UB’s career kickoff return yards list with a 56-yard return in the third quarter. Campbell, a junior, has 1,541 yards. He trails only Terrell Jackson on the career list.
This was UB’s first visit to McGuirk Stadium and it was its last for a MAC game. UMass joined the MAC in 2011 but is leaving after next season. UMass competes in the Atlantic 10 Conference in all sports other than football and decided it did not want to become a full member of the MAC in all sports.
UMass has announced it will play as an independent in football in 2016 and 2017. After that, it’s anyone’s guess if it will get into a football conference. There are no obvious alliances available to it at the moment.
Senior kicker Patrick Clarke finished a tough season with a miss of a 33-yard field goal try. Clarke missed his last three and 5 of his last 7 attempts. He was 6 of 14 for the season.
Clarke was a big asset in 2013. He finished his career as UB’s No. 2 all-time scorer, with 225 points, behind only A.J. Principe, who kicked from 2007 to 2010.
UB only had won two previous season-finales since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1999. Those wins came in 2007 and 2009, both against Kent State.
UMass graduate and New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz was in attendance.