It was hard for any one individual to steal the show in Saturday’s seven-overtime football game between the University at Buffalo and Western Michigan University at UB Stadium.
But the exuberance of Shalene Ernsberger, older sister of Western Michigan’s senior tight end Donnie Ernsberger, has gone viral after the first seven-overtime game in the NCAA since 2006.
When her brother scored on a 14-yard pass from quarterback Jon Wassink in the first overtime, he was greeted by his teammates. Suddenly, Shalene appeared on the field, wearing a jersey with Donnie’s No. 85. She threw her arms around her brother’s neck and hugged him. Donnie was surprised and bewildered. So was security.
“She thought the game was ended by my touchdown,” Donnie Ernsberger told The News on Sunday.
Actually, all it did was give Western the opportunity to tie the game at 38-all, which the Broncos did. Six overtime periods later, Western came away with a 71-68 victory in the wild contest.
“I was astonished that she got down there so fast,” Donnie said. “I was in disbelief that she was there before all of my teammates.”
In all the excitement, Shalene was on the field before security at UB Stadium could react. She was escorted from the field and the stadium, but not arrested and no charges will be filed, a UB spokesman said.
Western Michigan was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, though Ernsberger and his teammates argued in vain that they had no control over the actions of a spectator. He casually tossed the ball to an official after the embrace.
"All my teammates and coaches were just trying to explain to the refs that it wasn’t a penalty because it’s uncontrollable by us,” he said. “Afterward they laughed about it and were still happy and ready to go for the next overtime.”
The penalty made Western’s extra-point try a little longer but Josh Grant kicked it through the upright. Ernsberger’s touchdown was his second of the game – he scored on a 24-yard pass from Wassink in the fourth quarter – and the fourth of his college career.
Shalene is the only female in a family of five siblings who hail from Battle Creek, Mich.
“She was excited for her brother, and it just shows the family love we have,” Donnie said.
Since the game was available to television viewers nationally on ESPNU, video of Shalene’s unbridled enthusiasm was getting almost as much attention on social media as the highest-scoring game in FBS history.