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99 for 99 - #43 - Buffalo's Return to Division 1-A Football

99 Return to D-1
99 Return to D-1

99 for 99 takes a look at the 99 biggest moments in UB Football history during this season, the 99th Season of UB Football. These moments are not in any order, however the top 10 moments have been saved for last.

September 11, 1999 - Buffalo 10 - Akron 17 - Buffalo's Return to Division 1-A Football

In 1963, Buffalo Football was elevated to University Division status, which meant they would be playing football at the highest level. 36 years later, Buffalo finally found their way back. MAC Commissioner Jerry Ippoliti, former position coach at UB under Doc Urich, wanted to expand the MAC, and did so with NIU, Marshall, and he saved an invitation for his old team Buffalo.

Buffalo was a 20-point underdog against an Akron team coming off a 4-7 1998 season, and a 70-24 loss at #2 Penn State to open their 1999 campaign. 20,835 fans arrived for Buffalo's first game of the year, and they were greeted by the sounds of the Thunder of the East, the first marching band at UB for 27 years. The crowd set the attendance record at UB Stadium and today still stands as the 10th largest crowd at UB stadium.

Akron opened the game up 10-0 and outgained Buffalo 136 to -6. In the second quarter, Buffalo took over the game, Akron only gained 1 yard in the second, but Buffalo could not score. Buffalo fumbled in the red zone to end one drive. They then recovered an Akron fumble on the 6-yard line, but were not able to score a touchdown and the chipshot field goal attempt was blocked.

The Bulls faked a punt, to set up a 33-yard field goal by Scott Keller, the first points in UB's Division 1 era. Down 17-3, Buffalo made it a game with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Joe Freedy to Drew Haddad. Buffalo could not push through for the tying score, and the game ended 17-10.

Despite the loss, the game gave Buffalo reason for optimism. Akron was a good team that went 7-4 in 1999. The fans came out and supported the team, and the players responded by keeping the game close. 3rd-string Quarterback Joe Freedy started the game due to due to injuries to Erik Rusin and Mike Gaydosz, and performed well. The Buffalo News headline the next day was: "There's No Denying UB Football's On The Rise."

Buffalo football was on the rise, but it was a decade-long rise at a glacial pace. Buffalo went on to lose every game in 1999. The only other game as close as the opener was a 7-point loss to Hofstra. The fan support proved to be a mirage, every year, the home opener brought 20,000+ fans, but the play on the field never kept them coming back. The only real positive was Joe Freedy, who would not relinquish the starting job for the rest of his career.

Despite the lack of success, the move to Division 1-A was important. First we won some games, then we recruited some talent that would not have come to UB if we were not playing at the highest level. The move allowed us to (eventually) hire coaches with experience at the highest level of the sport, and gave us the opportunity to play in Bowl Games. It took some time, but starting with the Akron game, UB was finally back.