To make a long story short, I had no interest in UB Football at the beginning of this year. Still smarting from the loss of four sports, I was practically begging for something from Amherst to get me excited and engaged again.
By the end of the season, I have to ask myself: Are we on the verge of a 2008-like year, when a 2007 full of close games, developing leadership, and a near-miss on a bowl blossomed into more wins than losses for the first time in over a decade?
I’ve gone down this road with Basketball before, so let’s be clear: it’s very difficult to win a championship and unfair to expect or plan for one on the horizon. 2008 could have been a 10- or 11- win team, or a 3- or 4-win team with all the close games. UB was the underdog in Detroit against Ball State for a reason, regardless of the final score.
That said, for the first time since 2012 into 2013, UB fans should be looking ahead to next season with a realistic expectation that the team will improve. And the similarities are there: 2007 had one-possession losses to Syracuse and Miami and a team that was blessedly still in contention for both a bowl and the MAC East late into the year.
If anything, 2017 has more promise to build on than 5-7 2007: four one-possession losses to two single-possession wins suggests a bit of bad luck; I’d argue (though I know it would be an argument and not clear-cut) that 2017 Tyree Jackson and Anthony Johnson are bigger assets than 2007 Drew Willy and Naaman Roosevelt; UB should be able to build on their bowl-push buzz around Anthony Johnson and Khalil Hodge; and the offense returns nearly everyone: Kamathi Holsey and Kyle DeWeen are the biggest losses to graduation.
(The defense loses many more seniors, but I wouldn’t mind a season full of 35-31 games. It’ll be fun.)
I don’t have a lot to say on 2017, but it’s clear that there’s an upward trend.