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Four turnovers doom UB in 22-16 loss to FCS Albany

Three picks, and a fumble cost Bulls in opener
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Posted at 11:15 PM, Sep 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-03 14:05:24-04

College football has no preseason. There are no live games to work out the bugs, get rid of the nerves, or help make tough decisions for key positions.

When Week 1 comes, your team has to be ready.

...even if your opening opponent plays in the Football Championship Subdivision, considered the 'lesser' half of Division I.

Four turnovers, punctuated by a fumble and interception in the final four minutes of the game, proved too much for UB to overcome in their season opener, as FCS Albany upset Buffalo 22-16.

Those final two turnovers both fell on Redshirt freshman Tyree Jackson. After driving the Bulls inside the 10, Jackson ran on 4th and 6. Already past the first down marker, Jackson reached the one, and began to stretch out him arm, looking to punch it in for six, when he took a hard hit. The fall fell out of his arm, into the end zone, and over the white line on the Bulls sideline.

Touchback.

"That one's on me," an upbeat Jackson said after the game. "We play 12 games. This game isn't going to define us."

The Bulls still had one more chance in this game. After forcing a three and out, the Bulls took over inside their own 30, with more than two minutes to drive the field. That drive lasted only a single play -- as Jackson threw his first interception of the game.

Following one more three-and-out, there was still time for a last ditch effort. Buffalo went after the punt -- and ended with the worst possible result: roughing the kicker. It was game over for Buffalo.

"Way too many mistakes tonight to get a victory," Head coach Lance Leipold said after the loss. "I don't fault effort...you just have to execute better."

The Bulls struggles started right out of the gate. Quarterback Grant Rohach first pass of the game was an interception, setting up Albany's first drive inside the UB 7-yard line. The Danes needed just two plays to punch it in for a 7-0 lead.

Following a three-and-out, Rohach used his legs to help move the Bulls down the field in their first real offensive push of the game. But a pair of sacks late in the drive but Buffalo too deep for their kicker to connect, leaving Buffalo scoreless more than half way through the first half.

The next drive would end like the first -- another interception throw by Rohach deep in UB territory. This time, the defense would bail the quarterback out, as Albany's drive stalled, and kicker Ethan Stark missed the first of his two missed field goal attempts.

Rohach would see two more drives -- leading Buffalo 65 yards for a field goal, before a three-and-out would end his night. Rohach hit just 3-9 passes for 52 yards and two interceptions.

Enter freshman Tyree Jackson. Set up in good field position after a three-and-out by Albany's offense, Jackson

For awhile, it looked like Jackson's entrance would be the turning point. The redshirt freshman led the Bulls on a momentum-changing touchdown drive in the closing minutes of the first half, sending the Bulls into the locker room with a surge of energy and a single point deficit, just minutes after the Danes dealt a gut punch to the UB defense with a 33-yard rushing touchdown.

After a slow start, Buffalo entered the half down just one.

Albany took the opening kickoff of the second half, and put together a 10-play drive to put them into field goal range. But this is when Stark missed his second field goal attempt -- and it looked like Albany might run out of opportunities. After Buffalo hit a go-ahead field goal, both offenses struggled for the rest of the half.

Two big plays would change that in the fourth. Near mid-field, Albany quarterback Neven Sussman hit Jordon Crockett for 24 yards to get the ball at the UB 35. The next play, Sussman went deep again, this time to Brad Harris in the end zone. The upset watch was officially on in Amherst.

With his team down in the fourth quarter, Jackson once again started to show why so many people were excited to see him take the field. Jackson hit Malcom Robinson for 11 yards. Next play, he hit Mason Scrhek for 10. Two plays later, it's a 20-yard pass to Marcus McGilll, but it's called back for holding.

Two plays later, Jackson was forced to scramble, and made a pass reminiscent of the touchdown throw he made in the second quarter -- throwing off his back foot into the end zone. It doesn't end in a touchdown, but rather defensive pass interference keeping the drive alive. But here, the Buffalo offense begins to sputter. Three runs yield just four runs, and on the third, Jackson goes down hard. He's forced to head to the sideline, bringing Rohach back in for one play -- a fourth down play.

With the game on the line, Rohach drops back...and is sacked -- but an Albany defender jumped early, leading to an offsides call. Back in business, Jackson runs for two yards, and the drive continues...only to stall again. Facing fourth and six, Jackson rolled right...

Had he run out of bounds -- with 4:01 remaining, the Bulls are looking at first-and-goal inside the two. 

It's hard to argue with his decision. But that decision ends in disaster, one UB couldn't dig their way out of.

On the stat sheet -- and in the eye test, Jackson was the better of the two quarterbacks for the Bulls. But Leipold isn't ready to crown 'the quarterback of the future' as 'the quarterback of the present' just yet. "We're not ready to say how we're moving forward yet," he said, citing the fact that both quarterbacks turned the ball over twice -- one early, one late in the game.

Upsets are common in college football, and feel even more common in Week 1. Just this week alone, #9 Tennessee, Michigan State, and Cincinnati have had scares, but they all passed their first test.

The same can't be said for Buffalo. The Bulls now have two weeks to recover

...because the schedule only gets tougher from here.

 

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