Red-shirt freshman quarterback Tyree Jackson was by far the bright spot in a miserable season opener for the University at Buffalo.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, a fumble by Jackson into the end zone late in the fourth quarter foiled what could have been a storybook debut by the prized recruit from Michigan.
The 6-foot-7, 245-pound Jackson had the Bulls on the verge of a comeback victory. With Albany ahead, 22-16 in the fourth quarter, Jackson marched the Bulls 66 yards to the Great Danes' 8. On a fourth-and-6 play from the Albany 8, Jackson scrambled out of the pocket toward the right sideline then dove for the pylon. Jackson would have been down at the 1 for a first down if he held onto the ball. But the ball was popped out of his arms by Albany's Mason Gray and it flew across the goal line and out of the side of the end zone for a touchback.
"It was a pass play, and they ran a man defense," Jackson said. "No one had me and I scrambled and I was trying to make a play, get one in for the team. . . . That one's on me. I felt like I was going to make it. He did a great job, made a great play."
Jackson finished 14 of 25 passing for 125 yards. He rushed 10 times for 60 yards.
Jackson entered the game with 5:35 left in the first half. He immediately took UB on a 31-yard drive to a field goal.
UB got the ball back with 1:42 left in the half at its own 25. Jackson completed 6 of 8 passes on a 10-play, 75-yard drive to a touchdown that pulled the Bulls within 14-13. The score came on a 17-yard pass down the right sideline to senior tight end Mason Schreck. It was a fine play by Jackson, who hung in the pocket against a blitz and made an accurate throw off his back foot with a defender at his feet.
"For a red-shirt freshman, I thought he did a lot of good things," said UB coach Lance Leipold.
Asked if he wished he had gone to Jackson sooner, Leipold said: "We made a decision and we went with it. I guess that's one I could be second-guessed on."
Albany TDs: The Great Danes’ first score came on a 5-yard pass from Neven Sussman to fullback Anthony Manzo-Lewis. The second TD came on a 33-yard run by Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks around right end with 1:42 left in the first half. That capped a three-play, 52-yard drive that was aided by a 15-yard late-hit penalty on UB’s Cameron Lewis.
Benched: Senior cornerback Boise Ross, UB’s best defensive player, was suspended for the game for violation of team rules, UB reported before the game. Ross was a third-team all-Mid-American Conference pick last season and ranked fifth in the nation in passes defensed. Sophomore Brandon Williams made his first career start in Ross’ place but alternated with sophomore Tatum Slack.
Solo: UB paid tribute before the game to Solomon Jackson, who died in February after collapsing during an offseason conditioning workout. Jackson, a junior defensive end from Stone Mountain, Ga., was 20. There was a moment of silence for Jackson before the game. UB painted Jackson’s No. 41 on the sidelines and will wear a No. 41 decal on their helmets this season. Jackson’s parents, Steve and Jakki, were in attendance.
Injuries: Dev Lamour, who started at safety the first three weeks of training camp, sat out the game with an injury. He hasn’t practiced the past week. Starting in his place was junior Tim Roberts. Junior receiver Jacob Martinez remains out indefinitely with a shoulder injury.
Uni watch: The Bulls wore all-black uniforms and had their new “Bull” logo on the helmets.
Lineups: Junior Jarrett Franklin started at outside linebacker ahead of senior Brandon Berry. Berry was a second-team all-MAC pick last season. Franklin started at the position all of 2014. Berry rotated into the lineup in Franklin’s place in the second quarter.
Expectations: UB is picked for fourth out of six in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference. Albany is picked for 11th out of 12 in the Colonial Athletic Association.
In the house: Paid attendance was 18,657.