You probably noticed that I've been on a bit of a hiatus from the blog - between ending my senior year at UB, graduation, moving to the Buffalo area full time and starting my first full-time job, I've had a busy few months.
Now that my time at UB is over I'd like to indulge in a bit of nostalgia.
Prologue - October 23rd, 2010, Temple Owls vs. Buffalo Bulls
Before I can tell my story at UB, I need to tell the story about how I ended up at UB. I knew for a while that I had my heart set on going to engineering school but I couldn't decide where to go. I had a few schools on my shortlist including: RPI, Penn State, UB and at the top for the time being was Syracuse.
Before you get out your chainsaws and pitchforks, allow me to explain. In the initial stages of looking for a college, I focused mainly on name-recognition of the schools alone rather than looking at cost, departmental ranks and the local community. Syracuse was atop the list because it was Syracuse, and once I visited I thought it was where I would end up. Until, however, I came to my senses and realized that the engineering school at Syracuse was an afterthought and the financial side wouldn't work with what I wanted to spend for school.
That left UB as my top choice for a school, and it came to me highly recommended. My high school wrestling coach was a former Division I wrestler for the Bulls and he and his family (his mother was my high school principal) swore by UB and told me that it was the right school for me. So, I visited campus during open house in the fall of my junior year of high school. The visit just so happened to fall on homecoming weekend, and I saw my first FBS game, a 42-0 shellacking of the Bulls at the hands of the Temple Owls.
The first play of the game should've been a warning of what was about to come. Dominic Cook fumbled the opening kickoff and Temple recovered, scoring on a Bernard Pierce rushing touchdown just under 3 minutes later. I watched the Bulls offense and defense struggle for the first half of the game and I decided to leave once the game was well out of reach at 28-0 Temple.
I knew that UB had a Division I sports program but I didn't know much else beyond that. I figured after watching the homecoming game during my visit that I wouldn't pay much attention to the athletics teams once I got onto campus and would have the stereotypical "college" experience. I've never been so wrong.
Freshman Year - September 8th, 2012 - Morgan State Bears vs. Buffalo Bulls
I had been on campus for a few weeks and classes were starting to get into full swing. I was a kid from a small town on the edge of the Adirondack Park and I was thrown into a bustling sprawl of a campus and a city at large that I'd never experienced before. I was homesick. I missed my family. I missed my friends from back home. I was struggling to fit in and find my place and the 30,000 others that roamed UB's three campuses.
Sports had always been an escape for me. Whether I was playing them on a school team, or in the neighborhood with friends, or watching them on TV. I could get lost in the spectacle and forget about all of my troubles and have fun. Needing a break from everything, I decided that I was going to see my first football game as a member of True Blue.
My girlfriend at the time was volunteering with the Athletics department and she managed to get me into the stadium early. I sat near midfield on the west side of the stadium before the fans started entering and soaked in the atmosphere of that crisp fall evening. I felt at peace and my excitement for the game was through the roof, even if the team UB was playing was only an FCS team.
I didn't realize it at the time but I had witnessed history. Branden Oliver shredded the Morgan State defense to the tune of 238 yards, breaking his own single-game school rushing record (a record he'd break again the following season), Alex Neutz hauled in 4 touchdown passes, including this hail mary that made ESPN's top plays.
I screamed at the top of my lungs and for the first time in the few weeks that I had been on campus, I felt like I belonged and I felt happy.
Although the season took a downturn due to the struggles of Alex Zordich and the injury to Branden Oliver in the Kent State game, I enjoyed game days and heading to UB Stadium to watch the team play. For all of my struggles, I had managed to get through one semester on my own in this new and strange place; and if I could finish one then I knew I could finish them all.
Freshman Year - March 2nd, 2013, Akron Zips vs. Buffalo Bulls
After overcoming a lot of hurdles my first semester away from home, I had to deal with something I'd never really given much consideration to: death. In late February I had planned to go home and visit my ailing grandmother who was just moved into a nursing home. However, three days before I was able to go home and see her, I was on the phone with my mother when she got the call that my grandmother had passed away.
I had known that her time was coming to an end but I had hoped that I would've been able to say goodbye; although, I should've known that life was never that fair. Broken and alone I walked the campus back and forth and top to bottom for nearly the entire night. I was wondering if or when I would be reported to the police for suspiciously walking around in the wee hours of the night; but nothing ever happened. I walked until my legs gave way and I passed out from exhaustion.
I went home to be with my family, but that didn't change the fact that it had felt like a part of me had died that day. I did some soul-searching, tried to put myself back together to finish the year strong, and indulged myself in a day full of crossword puzzles and daytime game shows, I knew that's what my grandmother would have wanted.
Needing to return to a sense of normalcy at school, I once again turned to sports. The basketball team was struggling mightily and were sitting at 11-17 when the #24 ranked Akron Zips came to town. The Zips were riding the nation's longest winning streak at 19 games and were redhot when they walked into Alumni Arena. I watched UB lose to Princeton in the season opener and my expectations were admittedly low heading into the Akron game.
The game was exactly what I needed at the time. Javon McCrea, Tony Watson, Jarryn Skeete, and Will Regan combined for 73 of UB's 81 points in a 81-67 thrashing of the nationally ranked Zips. The UB defense was lights out the entire second half and Akron shot a measly 19 percent from beyond the arc while UB shot 41 percent from 3 and 56 percent from the field. It was an uplifting win for the program but it was an uplifting win for me.
People cope in different ways and for me it was watching basketball, wrestling, and the diamond sports in the spring. It gave me the ability to unplug my brain and forget about everything that had happened.
Life was starting to turn a corner and I was nearing the end of my first year at UB. It was filled with plenty of ups and downs, new experiences, new people, and a newfound hobby: watching UB sports.
That new hobby is what led me here. During the summer in-between freshman and sophomore year, I began reading Bull Run daily. I had another SBNation account and I was fairly active on the Arizona Cardinals site Revenge of the Birds and I would comment every now and then on Bull Run.
Sophomore Year - September 14th, 2013, Stony Brook Seawolves vs. Buffalo Bulls
Two weeks after watching Khalil Mack singlehandedly demolish Braxton Miller on national television, in a game that vaulted him into the national eye and generated buzz about him being a potential first round draft pick - I was more than happy to head to UB Stadium once again.
Although none of the others in my suite in Clinton Hall were as excited as I was, my roommate and I had watched the Ohio State game together and went together to UB's home opener. My roommate had a special connection to the game as well - he is originally from Long Island not far from the Stony Brook campus and his sister attended Stony Brook at the time. So he relished the opportunity to able to watch our school's team demolish his sister's school's team - or at least that's what we thought the outcome would be like.
The game had an electricity in the air with the stadium fuller than any game I had attended the previous season. Although that electricity was certainly dampened with the pace and play of the game. We were stationed in the True Blue section on the east end of UB Stadium and the sun was beating down on us all afternoon. The poor play along with the sun began to sour the mood of the students and at a few points there were boos thrown towards the field.
As regulation started to wind down it seemed like UB would win, walking into the 4th quarter with a 10 point lead. My roommate and I resolved to not leave until the game was over; little did we know that we would end up sitting through the longest game in UB history.
By the start of the 4th overtime, my knees had started to wobble from standing and jumping in one place for so long and we decided to move closer to the action and moved onto the track near the south endzone. At this point my entire face my beet red from a sunburn and my pregame buzz had worn off - my mood was starting to sour.
After a Joe Licata interception, Stony Brook lined up for what should have been the game winning field goal, and my frustrations started to boil over and we began our walk to the exit before hearing a loud cheer. Luckily, Nick Ferrara shanked the 37 yarder and gave UB new life, and gave me a feeling that UB may get by by the skin of their teeth.
A few minutes later as we were huddled by the barrier blocking off the field just to the right of the goal post, we watched backup running back Anthone Taylor plunge into the endzone to give UB the win.
It was a long and miserable day and even if a win is a win, I was beginning to have my doubts about the chances of the team's ability to win the MAC East as was predicted by some in the offseason.
Sophomore Year - January 2nd, 2014 - The First of Many
Watching Khalil Mack blossom into a small school darling that was all the motivation that I needed to finally write a FanPost here on Bull Run. I always fancied myself a "draftnik" or a wannabe Mel Kiper; I would watch the combine, read the in-depth analyses on players and even bust out game film from time to time. So I did some research on team needs and ran through a few mock drafts and wrote a detailed enough post that it was enough to be promoted to the front page - an accomplishment that I was quite proud of at the time.
What that post also did was catch the eye of Tim and after posting the same type of post for both Branden Oliver and Alex Neutz I was extended an offer to join the Bull Run staff.
After using sports as a sort of release from the stresses of everyday life during my freshman year, sophomore year allowed me to discover a part of myself that I didn't know existed. I had never considered myself a great writer - in fact, I hated writing school. However, getting the opportunity to write about sports and write about something I was passionate about on a platform like Bull Run was something that I considered an honor. It also allowed me to write about the sport that I knew better than any other: wrestling.
Junior Year - November 9th, 2014 - Western Michigan Broncos vs. Buffalo Bulls, MAC Women's Soccer Championship Game
In two years of following UB Athletics, I had seen the football team go to the program's second ever bowl game, saw Khalil Mack drafted in the top 5 in the NFL Draft, saw Duke legend Bobby Hurley step onto campus, but what I hadn't seen was UB win a MAC Championship.
Now in my first full year as a contributor to the site, Matt and I worked together to expand the coverage of Olympic Sports and cover every sport and every event. One team in particular that the two of us paid close attention to was Women's Soccer. Fresh off the heels of promoting assistant coach Shawn Burke to the full-time gig, the Women's Soccer team tore through their competition and they were the top dogs on campus among the fall sports.
I remember sitting in the crowd for the MAC Championship game huddled in my Carhartt and hoodie trying to keep myself warm on a cold November afternoon. The minutes seemed to drag on and as the minutes ticked off the clock I started to get the feeling of overwhelming worry that every sports fan gets when their team is playing for a championship. I felt a pit in my stomach and I started pacing back and forth along the walkway, unable to keep myself still.
Five years prior, I had a similar feeling in the pit of my stomach during Super Bowl XLIII, the first time my favorite football team, the Arizona Cardinals, made it to the big game. I had broken my arm the day before and despite the pain I was in I couldn't have been happier. Until Santonio Holmes happened, that is. The feeling of excitement went to dread as the final seconds ticked off the clock and my brother had bragging rights that his team beat mine in the Super Bowl. With less than 10 minutes to go the sense of dread I had felt five years ago and I had a bad feeling.
Then, the 82nd minute hit and Jackie Hall had a point blank shot on goal and time seemed to stop. A roar from the crowd seemed muffled as I focused on the ball striking the back of the net.
At long last I witnessed a championship trophy get raised. But little did I know that it wouldn't be the last.
Junior Year - April 25th, 2015 - Binghamton Bearcats vs. Buffalo Bulls, Men's Tennis MAC Championship Match
Being an engineering student, and one with two majors in aerospace and mechanical engineering, I spent a lot of time in computer labs and libraries on campus doing work. Especially as finals week was closing in I was either in the engineering labs in Furnas or Bell Hall, or in the Lockwood Memorial Library.
On April 25th, the day of the Men's Tennis MAC Championship match, I was in the Lockwood Library working on two major final project reports. I had my headphones in and my resting bitch face on so no one would disturb me.
I followed along with the match on Twitter until the Bulls were down 2-0 and things were starting to look grim. I decided to refocus and finish off the projects so I could enjoy the case of beer waiting for me at my apartment guilt free.
As I was wrapping a few loose ends and getting ready to head back home, it had hit me that the Tennis match was probably over and I checked Twitter to see the final outcome and much to my delight - the Bulls had won.
Then, in an act of pure happiness, or stupidity, depending on who you ask, I lept from my seat and let out a "Woo" that even Ric Flair himself would be jealous of. Quickly realizing my mistake and all of the eyes now staring bullets at me in the otherwise silent library, I quickly gathered my things and disappeared into the crowd in the hallway.
Senior Year - May 14th, 2016 - The End
Senior year seemed to go by like a blur. From the disappointing end to the football season, watching UB Wrestling take a huge step forward, watching history be made with two last-second game-winning shots to send UB to the NCAA tournament in both men's and women's basketball.
It was a microcosm of what I had been experiencing personally. Going from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. Dealing with the death of another grandparent and a dog that had been around for over half of my life, to accepting my first full-time job and signing the lease on my first apartment all on my own.
All of my experiences for better or worse culminated in listening to my name get called, walking onto the stage and shaking Satish Tripathi's hand.
I made my college experience my own. I'm grateful to say that I met plenty of wonderful people during my time at UB, got to do and experience new and exciting things. Through it all, one of the constants was the athletics department. Dave once told me that school was important, but 20 years from now I wouldn't remember going to class, I'd remember going to sporting events and the moments and memories that I'd remember for a lifetime.
Now that my time is over at UB I can honestly say that I wouldn't change a thing. I'm a completely different person than the young man that first stepped foot onto UB's campus four years ago as a freshman. I got to grow up, I got to cheer, I got to laugh, I got to cry, but most importantly I got to learn.
I will always cherish my time that I had at UB and now that I sit back and think, I'd give anything to do it all again.