Buffalo State Ends Season Without an ECAC Bowl Game

Buffalo State Ends Season Without an ECAC Bowl Game
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The Buffalo State football team didn’t receive an ECAC Bowl Bid, but they did finish with their first winning season since 2000
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The Bengals had the seventh hardest strength of schedule in the nation. Their opponents had a combined 59-39 record and a .602 winning percentage.

Following the Buffalo State football team’s season-closing victory over St. John Fisher on Nov. 3, the Bengals had an outside shot at an Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) bowl bid.

However, Buffalo State (6-4, 4-3 Empire 8) was denied the opportunity to continue its season on Monday. The team’s first winning season since 2000 wasn’t enough to earn a bid from the ECAC selection committee.

The committee chose Endicott (8-2, 6-1), St. John Fisher (7-3, 4-3), Castleton (7-3, 6-1), Springfield (7-3, 5-2), Norwich (7-2, 4-2) and Alfred (6-3, 5-2) to play in the North Division’s three Bowl games.

The Bengals ended their season with the seventh-hardest strength of schedule in the nation. Their opponents finished with a combined 59-39 record and a .602 winning percentage, including a 21-8 record and a .734 winning percentage by non- conference opponents..

“It’s another step,” head coach Jerry Boyes said. “In some regards I think that the guys are probably disappointed. Personally, I looked at this team to get at least seven wins because my unwritten goal this year was to make the playoffs and whether that was a NCAA or an ECAC, it would’ve shown the real growth of where we are.”

The Bengals’ season-opening 49-31 victory over Cortland brought along high expectations for the rest of the season. They racked up a school-record 706 offensive yards. Quarterback Casey Kacz threw for a school-record 579 passing yards and tied a school-record with five touchdown passes.

Two weeks later, in what was perhaps the program’s biggest victory, the Bengals defeated three-time reigning national champion UW-Whitewater 7-6, snapping the Warhawks’ 46-game winning streak in the process.

“The Wisconsin-Whitewater game stands out to me,” Kacz said. “It’s the most exciting victory I’ve been a part of and it was the most exciting atmosphere I’ve played in. It’s one of those memories that you’ll remember for years to come.”

With the win, the Bengals earned some time in the Division III football national spotlight. They answered that publicity by dropping three straight games, all at home, to conference foes in the following weeks.

Backed by a stout defensive game, the Bengals bounced back the rest of the season and won their last four games, allowing an average of just 13.5 points per game.

Buffalo State began its four-game winning streak with a 21-14 victory at Ithaca, in which its allowed just 253 yards of total offense and forcing three turnovers. The Bengals’ defense followed up with another strong performance at Frostburg in a 22- 7 victory in which they allowed just 97 passing yards.

During Buffalo State’s Homecoming Weekend and Senior Day, Hartwick led 24-13 in the fourth quarter, but the Bengals scored two touchdowns in the final 10 minutes to secure a 27-24 victory.

In its final game of the season, Buffalo State fell behind 9-0 at St. John Fisher early in the second quarter, but the Bengals defense pitched a shutout in the second half en route to a 17-9 victory.

“The game that stands out to me is probably beating St. John Fisher because they beat us 55-7 my freshman year,” senior linebacker Jordan Boser said. “It felt good to beat them at their place.

“It was a little disappointing, but being 6-4 is still a lot to take home. We’ve come a long way from being 2-8 my freshman year. It feels good.”

Kacz finished the season 148 of 265 for 2,168 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Rich Pete led the ground game with 703 yards on 129 carries. Ryan Carney led receivers with 47 receptions for 786 yards and four touchdowns.

Linebacker Pasquale Vacchio had a team-high 118 tackles and two forced fumbles. Cornerback Chris Hall recorded six interceptions to lead the Bengals. Defensive linemen Dez Howard and Brian Greene tied for the team lead with three sacks.

Heading into next season, the Bengals will lose 11 senior starters. Vacchio, Boser, Brandon Hodgins, Matt Wesolowski, Sean Littlejohn, Shiem Graham, John Jesonowski, Brendan Barthel, Zachary Best, Ryan Lehotsky and John Beers will be graduating.

“It’s kind of disappointing because as far as the team went, we all had hopes to make the playoffs,” Carney said. “We went on a four-game winning streak at the end of the season and we lost a couple of games that we shouldn’t have.

“It’s kind of disappointing, but it’s still a great feeling. At the end of the day we didn’t accomplish the goal that we set out for.”

Kacz noted that the team needs to build on its season-closing four-game winning streak.

“We just have continue to do what we did these last four games, which was continue to play good defense, not turnover the ball a lot and just keep the team chemistry that we have,” Kacz said.