99 for 99 #6: The 2009 International Bowl

After the 1999 season, there were 23 Bowl Games, but only one invited a MAC team; the team was Marshall and the game was the Motor City Bowl. Despite the addition of two more Bowl Games in 2000, again only Marshall represented the conference in postseason play. From 2001 to 2003, the number of Bowl games increased to 28. One of the new games, the GMAC Bowl, gave the MAC a second annual bowl bid. In 2004, five MAC teams went Bowling but in 2005 the number of bowling MAC teams returned to two.

In 2003, the SARS outbreak hit Canada and had a negative impact on the country's tourism, as a result in 2005, the International Bowl was created. The inaugural International Bowl in 2007 pit Cincinnati against Western Michigan, WMU was one of 4 MAC schools playing in the postseason.

In 2007, the 3-4 Bulls needed a 3-2 finish to reach Bowl eligibility. At 6-6 the Bulls were an unlikely bowl pick, however, with a game only an hour away, it is likely that the International Bowl would have selected the Bulls. (Remember Bowl Games have no rules, outside of conference ties, and are completely motivated by money) The Bulls finished 5-7, and Ball State took the MAC's International Bowl bid.

In 2008, the Bulls started 2-4 meaning they had to finish the season 4-2 to gain bowl eligibility.Given UB's history, this seemed unlikely, but 2008 was different, Buffalo won four in a row, to get to 6-4, bowl eligibility and a certain invite to the International Bowl. When UB shocked the conference by winning the MAC Championship, they accepted the bid to the International Bowl, becoming the first MAC Champion since Miami (Ohio) in the 2003 season to play in a bowl other than the Motor City Bowl.

The MAC has played 34 games while tied to 4 Bowls, (GoDaddy/GMAC, Little Caesars/Motor City, International & Famous Idaho Potato/Humanitarian). When Buffalo faced UConn in the International Bowl 40,184 people attended. It was the 14th highest attended bowl game of the 34, and more attended than any other International bowl or Idaho Potato Bowl involving a MAC team. It was the 7th highest attended of the MAC tied bowl games since 2004.

With the International Bowl, UB had an advantage over other MAC schools, a Bowl game that UB could get invited to as long as they were bowl eligible. The Bulls were only able to take advantage of the game once before the game folded.

The fact that 2008 was the year for Buffalo to finally play a bowl game was theatrical, the 2008 season marked the 50-year anniversary of the Buffalo team that declined UB's only prior bowl bid in a stand against racism. The team was rewarded, by being on hand to view UB's 2nd bowl bid.

Before re-watching the highlights, I remembered the punt recovery in the endzone and having the lead, but I also remembered being out of the game relatively early. The 38-20 final score justifies that memory. However as I re-watched, I saw a team that forced 5 turnovers in the first half, but the offense stalled, and Donald Brown singlehandedly kept UConn in the game.

I forgot the ending, I must have erased it from my memory, the touchdown that wasn't returned 100 yards, nasty karma from Ball State perhaps, or maybe just bad luck. The 2008 team never said die, and a touchdown there makes the game 31-28, with a few minutes remaining. Instead, the game ended in an unsatisfying and anti-climatic manner, with UConn winning 38-20.

Because my memory was so poor for this game, I decided to let the pros handle it. Enjoy the #6 moment in UB history as immortalized by UB Athletics, UB Bullseye and Paul Peck: The 2009 International Bowl.

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