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99 for 99 - #58 Chad Salisbury Dies by the Pass

salisbury 58
salisbury 58

99 for 99 takes a look at the 99 biggest moments in UB Football history in anticipation of the 99th Season of UB Football which begins on September 1st, 2012. These moments are not in any order, however the top 10 moments have been saved for last.

Over the course of two months, Chad Salisbury made his UB debut. Within his first seven games, he threw for over 400-yards three times. However due to coaching, special teams, an anemic running game and inopportune coaching, the Bulls lost each of those games.

September 6, 1997 - Buffalo 40, Illinois State 28

When Chad Salisbury transferred to Buffalo from New Mexico State, Buffalo had the Division-1 quarterback they needed to usher the Bulls into Division 1-A play. However, Erik Rusin who started two games in 1996 gave him a run for his money in summer camp. Coach Cirbus waited to the last minute to decide who would start, and when he chose Salisbury it definitely tempered expectations.

Salisbury started 10 games at New Mexico State the previous year, throwing for 2,291 yards and 11 touchdowns. In his UB debut, he exceeded expectations, throwing for 214 yards and three touchdowns. The following game was feast and famine. Salisbury lead the Bulls to a 21-7 lead over Illinois State, throwing for 313 yards and touchdown throws to Kali Watkins and Jamie Gasparre by halftime.

Miscues kept Illinois State in the game: an Anthony Swan fumble lead to a touchdown, ISU's Marquis Mosely had a 100 yard kickoff return, and a Salisbury interception led to another touchdown. Buffalo's lead was down to 21-19. Despite throwing for 425 yards and 3 touchdowns, Salisbury threw 4 interceptions. The most damaging was deep in ISU territory with UB down 27-21. The interception proved to be a 13 point swing, instead of marching in for the tying score, ISU moved down the field for a touchdown.

Buffalo would lose 40-28. Despite the loss, the individual passing display was impressive. Salisbury's effort was the second most passing yards in a game (now third) in UB history. In addition, Kali Watkins set a career high with 12 receptions, tied for third most in UB history. Watkins' 167 yards stand as the eighth most in UB history. Drew Haddad caught a then career high 8 passes and gained a career high 174 yards good for sixth most receiving yards in UB history.

September 27, 1997 - Buffalo 27, West Chester 30

UB just felt the sting of higher competition. Losing 50-0 to D-1A Ohio U. They looked to exact revenge as the D-1AA team facing lower level West Chester from Division-2. The Bulls however found themselves down by ten at the half. In the third, Salisbury threw a 37-yard touchdown to bring the Bulls within four. West Chester scored on the next drive, and then picked up a David Hinson fumble on the 10, and returned it 90 yards giving West Chester a 30-13 lead.

Buffalo began a furious comeback, they scored, then Drew Haddad recovered an onside kick and scored later on a 10 yard reception, bringing Buffalo within 3. Buffalo drove to the 21 yard line, but the game-tying field goal went wide left, securing the victory for West Chester.

Salisbury had another monster day without securing a victory. He threw for 418 yards, fourth all time in UB history. Drew Haddad caught 9 passes for 143 yards and Kali Watkins grabbed 10 for 125 yards. UB has always had a bruising running back, and Coach Cirbus seemed uncomfortable with his newfound aerial arsenal. Instead of allowing Salisbury to drive towards the end zone, Cirbus called consecutive running plays; gaining no yards, burning 15 seconds off the clock, and extinguishing UB's final timeout. After the runs, Buffalo had no choice but to put the game in the hands of the kicker.

October 18, 1997 - Buffalo 20, Massachusetts 26

The 2-5 Bulls were not elite, they were not the 1996 Bulls. Despite a better quarterback and an improved receiving core, they did not have the Anthony Swan from 1996 and they did not have the defense from 1996.

In 1996, they fell in only one game by more than 20 points; seven games into 1997, they had been blown out by 35, 50 and 55 points.

In 1996, they were 5-1 in games decided by 12 points or less; in 1997, they were 1-2 in those games. After the UMass game, they would be 1-3. Each loss would be in a game where Chad Salisbury and the receiving trio put up Arena Football numbers.

Buffalo entered the Umass game with a final chance to avenge a loss from 1996: they followed a 17 point defeat vs. Uconn with a 55 point loss at UConn, a 11 point loss vs Youngstown with a 35 point loss at Youngstown. If they were going to avenge the 21 point loss against UMass, they would finally have a chance to do so at home.

Salisbury hooked up with Gasparre early, with touchdown passes of 48 and 63 yards in the first half as UB took a 13-6 lead into the half. But when the deep ball dried up, the UB running game could not force UMass to crowd the line of scrimmage and and the Buffalo offense stalled, allowing Umass to take a 19-13 lead into the fourth quarter. Buffalo drove deep into UMass territory but a tipped balled was intercepted and returned 103 yards for a touchdown, UMass leading 26-13.

Buffalo responded, marching down the field once more and scoring on a one handed catch by Drew Haddad in the back of the end-zone, cutting the lead to 26-20. Umass missed a field goal on their next drive, giving Buffalo hope, until Salisbury was intercepted again, sealing the defeat.

At the time, UMass had played football for 114 years, but no one in their history carved up the Minutemen secondary as well as Salisbury did in 1997. For the third time, Salisbury lived by the pass, throwing for over 400 yards, and died by the pass, losing the game.

Salibury set his career high in yards against UMass, with 459 yards, behind only Cliff Scott's 490 yards in 1992 for most in UB history. Seven games into his UB career Salisbury secured the second, third and fourth best passing days in UB history. Drew Haddad grabbed 11 receptions for 147 yards, Kali Watkins grabbed 9 passes for 128 yards and Gasparre added 6 catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

In only two seasons as a Bull, Salisbury is 5th all time in passing yards and passer rating. During the 1997 season, Salisbury threw for 2,889 yards, a UB record until it was bested by Drew Willy's 2008 season. Willy exceeded Salsibury by 415 yards, but Willy had the benefit of a 14 game season, while Salisbury only played 10 games in 1997. The 1997 team was the second most prolific passing offense in UB history, throwing for 297.7 yards per game, behind only the 1982 team that threw for 302.9 yards per game.