BY MATT PARRINO
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — AMHERST — The University at Buffalo football team seemed on its way to victory against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday afternoon when the RedHawks quarterback Zac Dysert, projected to be playing on Sundays next season, threw a game-tying touchdown pass with 23 seconds remaining in regulation.
Buffalo kicker Patrick Clarke only wanted an opportunity and kick returner Devin Campbell gave him one when he took the ensuing kickoff 43 yards into Miami territory. After a few Branden Oliver runs, Clarke was summoned to attempt a game-winning field goal with 2 seconds left on the clock.
The hold was good and the kick went right through the uprights to give the Bulls a 27-24 win as time expired, their first Mid-American Conference win of the season.
Clarke’s teammates recalled the kicker telling them to just get him in range and he would make the field goal. Wide Receiver Alex Neutz said he thought Clarke would have tried it from the Bulls’ own
“I was ready to go,” Clarke said. “That scenario played out over and over again in my head and I was just ready to get my chance at a game winner. I knew I would come through and my team had faith in me, I had faith in myself and the coaches had faith in me … As soon as I kicked it I knew it was good.”
Bulls coach Jeff Quinn called the result “one of the best endings” in the history of UB football.
“That’s exactly how you want to leave the field and I certainly couldn’t be more proud of those young men — a very resilient group,” Quinn said. “It was an unbelievable experience, especially on the sidelines. There was so much energy.”
It seemed as though Dysert was ready to steal the spotlight from local high school star and current UB quarterback Joe Licata, who started his first game for the Bulls (2-7, 1-4 MAC), when he threw his third touchdown of the game, all to wide receiver Nick Harwell.
Licata completed 13 of 24 passes for 127 yards in the win, including two touchdowns and one interception. The redshirt freshman recovered from a slow start in the first half where he said he was playing with a lot of emotions.
“I was just trying to stay calm and I think my emotions got the better of me in the first half,” Licata said. “I settled down in the second half and played my game I think … The defense held their quarterback to only three points in the first half. You probably won’t see that the rest of the year. He’s an unbelievable player. The team really picked me up today.”
The defense was impressive, applying consistent pressure and showing the ability to get penetration in both the pass and run game throughout the game. Redshirt freshman Marqus Baker shined in relief of the injured Courtney Lester. He made two big pass break-ups on the RedHawks’ final drive and really impressed Quinn.
“Our defense kept things in good balance and we beat a good football team (who) just beat (Ohio) last week,” Quinn said. “We spent a long time studying their passing game and what (Dysert) likes to do. We rose to the occasion. We wanted to stop what they did and we were able to do that”.
Branden Oliver was as explosive and elusive as ever, running for 199 yards on 32 carries and one touchdown. He became just the third player ever to record 12 career 100-yard games, tying James Starks for second all time. Licata applauded Oliver’s effort after the game.
“The running game really helped our offense,” he said. :When you hand the ball off to Branden Oliver a lot of great things can happen and you saw that today. The offensive line did a great job and the receivers blocked great down the field.”
Quinn wouldn’t say whether or not Licata earned another start, but said he will keep evaluating the talent and check the health of Alex Zordich.
“Joe is a team guy, a competitor and a winner,” Quinn said. “To have him in there today and how he picked up for what Alex Zordich is able to do is a great tribute to him. I know our kids were excited to have Joe in there.”
Dysert finished with 242 yards passing and the three touchdowns. Steven Means and Derek Brim both had 10 tackles for the UB defense, Means added a sack.