I’ve watched more UB Football than probably anyone this year and I’m ashamed I haven’t posted anything about the miraculous season the team has had.
It’s been a dream season for everyone who’s been involved.
Even in the fourth quarter against Ball State, after the second fumble recovery for a touchdown, I was still worried they might not be able to pull it out. I was covering the game for The Spectrum, UB’s student newspaper, when Western Michigan dropped 21 points on them in the fourth quarter to tie the game and then win in overtime at UB Stadium.
I also watched them rally back in Central Michigan and miss out on a victory because of a stubborn right goal post. They’ve been in every game, for the good and the bad. I watched a closely contested bout against Missouri, when the more talented team stepped up and won in the fourth quarter.
There was also the Hail Mary grab by Naaman Roosevelt in the first Mid-American Conference game of the year. And the now-infamous rally in Bowling Green to clinch the division title. The team has had so many ups and downs that no lead has ever been safe–for either team.
Going into the MAC Championship game, I came to the conclusion that the Bulls were a good football team–they’ll be able to capitalize on their opportunities but they’ll still be prone to key mistakes that will probably cost them the game. I figured they’d lose by a score of 38-24 or something close to that.
Common sense said they would need a few turnovers to stay in the game–and boy did they ever get the turnovers.
I’ve listened to Bulls coach Turner Gill every week at the weekly press conference stress how they work on stripping the ball on defense. Being tenacious and being, his phrase of the year, “relentless to finish.” Eventually, he said, those techniques become second nature.
The Bulls defense was outstanding it it can all be traced back to Gill.
It’s obvious what he and Athletic Director Warde Manuel have done for the program and how they’ve made it respectable.
Last season, the rumors swirled that Gill was headed to Nebraska, his alma mater, to take over the Cornhusker program. Bo Pellini was chosen over Gill so Gill came back to Buffalo and won a conference championship.
With the accolades, he was rumored to be in line to take over at Syracuse and Auburn. The Syracuse job was filled on Friday and reports circled late yesterday that Auburn had decided on its next head coach. I had the words “Turner Gill” programmed into Google Alerts to keep me updated on any breaking news.
There’s no question that Gill will leave Buffalo and take over a bigger program. It’s just a matter of when and where. For now, it seems that Gill will return to UB for at least one more season. He’s a tremendous coach who knows how to get the best out of his players.
But he’s not just a great coach– he’s also a great leader. He’s shaped young men who were only used to losing at the Division I level and shaped them into champions. Guys like Drew Willy, James Starks, Jeff Niedermier, Mike Thompson and Andrae Smith weren’t even guys Gill recruited–they’re players that he’s adopted and made better. It’s because of players like them that will likely keep Gill at the college level for his career.
You won’t see him jumping to the pros (sorry disillusioned Bills fans) because he takes so much pride in helping develop young players.
Sure at times he may be a bit too conservative with his playcalling, but that’s probably the most negative thing you can say about the guy. While it’s unfortunate for Gill that the opportunity to move up the ladder isn’t available right now, it will be soon enough. He’s too good a coach and a person. UB is damn lucky that it looks like Gill will be returning to the sideline next season.
But first, they’ve got one more game on Jan. 3. We’ll see you in Toronto.