Sunday, September 21, 2014

Norfolk State Spartans 7 at Buffalo Bulls 36 (NCAA Football) - September 20, 2014


I spent the weekend in Buffalo, returning to the city that hosts the drunkest fans in the NFL, according to some guy who wrote some book. I wouldn't get to experience that until Sunday, which left Saturday wide open for some sports. I originally planned to visit Hamilton to see new Tim Hortons Field, but they have had some construction delays there and the stadium isn't 100% ready, so I decided to postpone my visit until next season and see a college game in Buffalo instead.



The University at Buffalo is part of the SUNY system and plays out of the MAC, certainly not one of the Power 5 conferences in the FBS. Although the program has never reached national prominence, the Bulls can boast of having had Khalil Mack, who was drafted 5th overall by the Raiders this past April.



The stadium, unimaginatively named the University at Buffalo Stadium, is located in the southeast corner of campus, which is northeast of the city in Amherst, quite close to the airport. Driving there is easy and there are plenty of lots with free parking, though I chose to park on the street to avoid hassles getting out. It was opened in 1993 in time for the University Games and UB has played there since.



As I walked along Augspurger Road toward the stadium, I saw many fans enjoying their own tailgate, obviously a much more controlled scene than at a Bills game. For those without their own BBQ, Stampede Square offers a great pregame experience. The Spin Doctors (above) were performing as part of the Tailgate Concert Series (a different band is on stage before every game) and there are several food stands, and even a couple of spots for those of age.



After the Spin Doctors finished up, I made my way to the box office, where all tickets are $20. Before purchasing, I decided to stand around for a bit as you can often find a guy with an extra ticket and sure enough, I was rewarded for my patience. I heard someone behind me saying he wanted to give one away and I quickly accosted him, gladly taking the freebie off his hands. Later on, I found 50 cents, so it was a profitable afternoon. The seat I received was in the South Bleachers (view below) which is a terrible place to sit with the 8-lane running track separating you from the field. Of course, with the stadium barely drawing 50% of capacity, you can pretty much sit where you want. The east side (visible below) is in the sun for most of the game and the much better place to spend the afternoon. This is also where the student section, known as the Bullpen, can be found.



There's not much here in terms of entertainment once you are inside, but there is a mechanical bull that gets the kids to line up, just so they can fall off.



The visitors were from Norfolk State, an FCS team that is ranked 99th out of 128 teams in that division. So yeah, they suck. Both teams failed to move the ball on their first drives, and a great punt from Spartan kicker Dylan Shaddix (who has punted 29 times in just 4 games) left the Bulls at their own 8-yard line. On the next play, Joe Licata hit Devon Hughes around the 30, but the Spartan safeties collided and Hughes had a clear path to the end zone. The 92-yard play was the longest from scrimmage in Buffalo history. I am not sure that FBS teams should recognize records against FCS schools but anyway, the Bulls were up 7-0.



Norfolk State took the kickoff to the 32 and on the next play, freshman QB Terrance Ervin (#1 above) hit Isaac White over the middle and White rambled the rest of the way, a 68-yard play that tied the game. Just 4:45 in and it looked like a shootout was underway. Nope. That was all the Spartans could muster as Ervin finished 3-12 on the day with the Spartans running most plays, rather unsuccessfully. Meanwhile, Buffalo romped. Licata found Hughes for a second touchdown midway through the first quarter and then connected with Ron Willoughby for another score (below) that made it 20-7 after the convert was botched.



A Bulls field goal added to the lead and Licatta ran for another score to put the game away and send fans streaming to the exits. By this time, I had moved down to stand behind the south end zone, probably the best place to watch the game as the running track is not between you and the field. Backup QB Tony Daniels added a final touchdown with Willoughby (#86 below) making the catch to complete the scoring as Buffalo won easily 36-7.



There's your final score. Quite a nice scoreboard for this relatively minor college program. If you are in Buffalo for a Bills game and happen to have Saturday free, check the Bulls schedule to see if you can catch some football MACtion.



Notes

This was my 501st venue. I realize I should have saved Levi's Stadium for this distinction.

Best,

Sean

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