If you ask most people which Buffalo football team has had more success since 2007 many would ask you what team is there other than the Bills? The Bulls, though gaining recognition, are not generally a team most casual Buffalo football fans keep up with.
The Bulls won a share of the MAC East in 2007 and won the MAC outright in 2008. After four painful seasons the Bulls were once again in a position to claim the MAC East this past season, 2013. UB tore through the weaker teams of the MAC and then throttled the Ohio Bobcats which pretty much assured UB would be at least tied with Bowling Green going into the season's last game.
As it happened the last game of the season would be played on Black Friday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The department had been publicizing the game all season as a chance for UB to get away from a campus which was abandoned for the Thanksgiving break. Playing at the Ralph was also a chance for the Bulls to try and connect with the Buffalo football community.
And it seemed to work. Normally Black Friday games are played in front of empty stands. When UB played Bowling Green on Black Friday a year earlier, the Falcons moved their game to Columbus and still drew only about 12,000 fans. The Bulls' "Clash at the Ralph" drew well over 20,000.
Buffalo was playing the same game they had all season. Trying to wear down their opponent in a low scoring first half and setting up an offensive explosion in the second half.
UB scored a touchdown midway through the second quarter on a Branden Oliver run and took a 7-3 lead into the half. Many Buffalo fans expected the Bulls to do what they had all season. The Bowling Green game was the eighth time UB held their opponent to 7 or less points in the first half in 2013, and UB won each of the previous games. Fans expected the Bulls to come out in the third Quarter, run the ball down Bowling Green's throat and then open up the pass.
Instead after just a little bit of frustration on the ground, Quinn and his staff decided to take to the air. Joe Licata would throw the ball 45 times and complete less than half of his passes.
Bowling Green's second half offense used a few big passes, but otherwise stuck to the ground. The Falcons racked up 260 rushing yards on UB and put up 21 second half points as a result.
Shaun Joplin caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Matt Johnson to put Bowling Green in front 10-7 early in the third quarter, and Travis Green's 14-yard touchdown run capped a 93-yard drive and extended the Falcons' lead to 17-7 with 2:05 left in the quarter. Then Johnson scored on a seven-yard run after completing a 62-yard pass to Joplin (six receptions, 149 yards) to set the final score with 8:18 left in the game.
Bowling Green rode the momentum into the MAC Championship where they ended Northern Illinois' BCS hopes while Buffalo settled for the Spud Bowl and fell to San Diego 49-24.
Missing out on a third division title in 7 years for Buffalo was a setback, but one that the program will weather. UB played in the stadium where the Bills won three AFC East Championships, creating a permanent bond between the team and the city. The real loss for UB was their chance to create an association between the college program and a big victory at the Ralph for the city of Buffalo.
The Crash at the Ralph was a heartbreaking goodbye to the UB players that pulled the team back from the depths of college football, but was it a worse moment than Baby Joe, Kevin Everett or Hasek and Nolan? Vote below.
Up next: Buffalo sleeps with the enemy.