3:30 PM ET, October 18, 2008
UB Stadium, BUFFALO, NY
Willy threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, including a 15-yarder to Ernest Jackson with 4:19 left, to rally the Bulls back from a 14-point deficit. A.J. Principe then hit a 34-yard field goal in the first overtime to seal a 27-24 victory over Army on Saturday.
"I think this just shows the character that this team has," Willy said. "With this season, I think it's been all about dramatics."
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Bulls (3-4) and eased the frustrations of their past two losses. Buffalo, last week, squandered a 14-point lead in final 5 minutes in a 34-28 overtime loss to Western Michigan. In their previous game, the Bulls blew an 18-17 fourth-quarter lead to lose 27-25 at Central Michigan when Principe's 46-yard field-goal attempt hit the upright as time ran out.
It never seems to come easily for Buffalo, which also beat Temple 30-28 on Willy's 35-yard touchdown pass as time expired on Sept. 13.
"My heart's fine. I don't have to go see any doctors, that's for sure," coach Turner Gill said. "We never gave in and we never surrendered. And that's really what took us through this whole game because, very easily, we could've just given up and said that it's over."
The disappointment was left for the Black Knights (2-5), who had a two-game win streak snapped. The game ended when Matthew Campbell missed a 51-yard attempt wide right.
"We worked this hard and we don't get rewarded," said defensive end Victor Ugenyi, who had six tackles and 2 1/2 sacks. "It's tough. It's like getting punched in the chest."
The loss spoiled yet another solid outing for Collin Mooney, who finished with 172 yards rushing and two touchdowns. It was the third straight game in which the senior fullback broke the 170-yard mark, and a week after he had a career-best 229-yard outing in a 17-13 win over Eastern Michigan.
It also stunted the momentum Army had built around its resurgent triple-option offensive attack that totaled 328 yards rushing against Buffalo.
Just as it appeared that Mooney had put the game away by scoring on an 81-yard run to give Army a 24-10 lead late in the third quarter, the Black Knights unraveled.
Willy, who at one point completed 12 straight passes, responded by engineering a nine-play, 64-yard drive, which he capped with an 8-yard pass to Naaman Roosevelt. Buffalo, though, stalled on its next possession, when Brandon Thermilus was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-1 at the Army 16.
The Black Knights, however, gave the ball right back on the next play when linebacker Justin Winters punched the ball out of the hands of Mooney to set up the Bulls' tying score.
"I saw the ball pop out and my eyes got big," said cornerback Kendric Hawkins, who recovered the fumble and returned it to the Army 16. "We kept playing, kept fighting and got a little luck on our side."
The game was decided when Army went backward in overtime, starting with an illegal procedure penalty on the first play. The Black Knights then were penalized for a delay of game, and quarterback Chip Bowden overthrew a wide-open Damion Hunter over the middle on third-and-18, forcing the field-goal attempt.
"We just have to hang on to the ball. You can't turn over the ball. And defensively, you have to make stops," Army coach Stan Brock said. "They made plays and we didn't make plays."
Mooney also scored on a 3-yard run, while Patrick Mealy scored on a 1-yard run.
For Buffalo, Thermilus also scored on a 1-yard run, while Principe hit a 36-yard field goal. Willy finished 25-for-35 for 279 yards, while Jackson had nine catches for a career-best 134 yards. Bulls defensive back Davonte Shannon had a career-best 20 tackles.
Buffalo finally has something to feel good about entering its final stretch, closing the season with five games against Mid-American Conference East Division rivals. The Bulls, who went 5-7 last year, have posted three wins in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1994-96, when the program was a Division I-AA independent.
"They showed great perseverance. They showed great resilience. They showed that they are confident. They showed that they believe," Gill said. "This is a great, great win for our football team. ... We've got a ways to go, but this is a big step."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-13||6-15|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||1-2|
|TD||00:06||Patrick Mealy 1 Yd Run (Matthew Campbell Kick)||7||0|
|FG||09:56||A.J. Principe 36 Yd||7||3|
|FG||02:55||Matthew Campbell 34 Yd||10||3|
|TD||05:15||Collin Mooney 3 Yd Run (Matthew Campbell Kick)||17||3|
|TD||02:51||Brandon Thermilus 1 Yd Run (A.J. Principe Kick)||17||10|
|TD||01:27||Collin Mooney 81 Yd Run (Matthew Campbell Kick)||24||10|
|TD||12:44||Naaman Roosevelt 8 Yd Pass From Drew Willy (A.J. Principe Kick)||24||17|
|TD||04:19||Ernest Jackson 15 Yd Pass From Drew Willy (A.J. Principe Kick)||24||24|
|FG||A.J. Principe 34 Yd||24||27|