The University at Buffalo could not win its season finale at home against a 2-9 team that was missing five starters.
Maybe the Bulls didn’t deserve to go to a bowl game.
The Bulls’ season ended Friday with a thud, a 31-26 loss to the University of Massachusetts on a windy, rainy night at UB Stadium.
UB closed the season with three straight losses to finish 5-7, one win shy of bowl eligibility. UMass finished 3-9.
“It’s disappointing, frustrating,” said UB senior quarterback Joe Licata. “It’s tough. We had a great week of practice. I thought we were very well prepared. We just didn’t play very well.”
“I wasn’t expecting this to be the last one,” said senior running back Anthone Taylor. “Going through this week of practice, giving it our all, I felt like this couldn’t have been the last one.”
“It’s a sad way to end, but in many ways it’s kind of a nutshell of a lot of parts of our season,” said UB coach Lance Leipold. “Our consistent inconsistency. Not taking advantage of opportunity at certain times. ... We had three weeks to try to get bowl-eligible and we didn’t do it.”
UB lost largely because it gave up 295 rushing yards to the 12th-ranked rushing team in the Mid-American Conference. The Minutemen had 271 rushing yards in the first half in building a 28-17 intermission lead.
Licata closed his career as UB’s all-time leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns and wins by a starting quarterback. He finished with a 21-19 record for the Bulls. His 76 career TD passes rank ninth in MAC history.
In his last game, Licata passed for 287 yards, hitting 19 of 40 attempts. But given the weather conditions, it was not a good day to play from behind.
The pivotal stretch of the game was late in the first half.
Licata drove UB 71 yards against the wind and rain – all through the air. UB had a first-and-goal situation from the 4 with 1:30 left and all three timeouts available.
Licata threw incomplete to the end zone on first down, then tried a fade pass to tight end Matt Weiser on second down. But it was underthrown and intercepted by Trey Dudley-Giles with 1:12 left.
UMass had time to drive 80 yards in five plays to a TD that gave it an 11-point halftime edge.
Leipold acknowledged that UB should have run the ball from the 4, given the rain, wind and clock situation.
“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s on me. We should have run it once to twice, not give them much clock. We didn’t do it.”
“We split Matt out, and we liked the matchup,” Licata said. “It’s our 6-foot-5, should be all-MAC tight end. Gonna give him a chance, and I didn’t get the ball outside enough. When your quarterback makes dump throws, they’re going to capitalize on them and they did. They came down and scored right away. So that’s completely on me.”
Young gashed the UB defense for runs of 22 and 35 yards on the ensuing drive, and the TD came on a 14-yard scramble by QB Blake Frohnapfel.
“Unacceptable, credit coach Whipple and his staff or their plan,” Leipold said, referring to UMass coach Mark Whipple. “For a team with two wins to come in there, they took it to us. We lost leverage a lot.”