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UB football unites in honor of injured punter Evan Finegan

Three days after losing punter Evan Finegan to a season-ending broken leg, the University at Buffalo football team has vowed to rally around its injured teammate.

The Bulls (1-1) face Liberty (0-2) at 6 p.m. Saturday in Lynchburg, Va., Finegan’s teammates have constantly been in touch with him since he was admitted to the hospital Saturday night.

“I talked to him after the game,” defensive tackle Chibueze Onwuka said. “He’s always positive. He’s really strong. I don’t think anybody could get through that injury like he’s getting through it, right now.”

Finegan, a redshirt sophomore from Sterling Heights, Mich., posted Tuesday on Twitter that he had been released from Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College, Pa., where he underwent surgery to repair a broken right tibia and fibula. He said he is expected to be on bed rest for the next few days.

Finegan sustained the injury in the third quarter of the Bulls’ 45-13 loss Saturday at No. 13 Penn State. Penn State’s Journey Brown attempted to block a punt and collided with Finegan after he punted the ball from the UB 11 on fourth-and-13 from the Bulls 22.

“Discharged from the hospital today!” Finegan wrote on Twitter. “Excited to get back to Buffalo and see my guys! I am fortunate to be in such great hands not only at UB but also here at PSU. Thank you to the thousands of people that sent messages over the last few days. God is good!”

UB coach Lance Leipold on Tuesday thanked the medical staffs at Penn State and at UB for working with Finegan over the last three days, and thanked Nittany Lions coach James Franklin, who visited Finegan in the hospital, as well as some of Penn State’s players and assistant coaches.

“Nobody goes out there wanting or expecting to get injured,” Leipold said during his weekly press conference at Murchie Fieldhouse. “At the same time, you don’t know how many snaps (you have) left. When you talk to your team, you talk about making the most of your opportunities.

“We don’t get to control when we play this game anymore. When you’re in that competitive mind frame, you should attack it that way. When something like this happens, hopefully, you make the most of it. The best way you can help Evan and represent it is preparing and playing with the fullest effort, and playing your best football, and let it go from there. I know he’ll be around to support the guys in any way he can, until he’s back out there, himself.”

However, Leipold did not give any details regarding the surgery that Finegan underwent.

“They had to fix a broken leg, and that’s probably where it’s at, right now,” Leipold said. “Anything from there, I’ll let the doctors and the family go further with that. I told them, that’s his business, right now.”

Two of UB’s quarterbacks will take over for Finegan on special teams. Kyle Vantrease, who is Matt Myers’ backup at quarterback, will become UB’s punter. He punted twice for 51 yards at Penn State. Dominic Johnson, who also competed for the starting quarterback job and who is playing at wide receiver, will take over for Finegan at holder on place kicks.

“I see this as a bonding thing,” Vantrease said. “We’re going to come together, because one of our brothers is down. When that happens, it brings people closer because we all feel the same emotions for the person. Especially for Evan. He’s always that guy who can make people laugh. He’s upbeat, positive and it’s a family attitude, and that’s going to help us in the long run, a lot.”

Onwuka and the Bulls are already drawing strength from Finegan’s upbeat approach after he sustained such a severe injury.

“The fact that he’s been so positive about it and wants us to keep going for him, we’re going to keep going for him and make sure that we play for him and for each other, all the time,” Onwuka said.

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