The Bulls are going bowling

UB will play in the Dollar General Bowl against Troy

Jon Simon
December 03, 2018 - 3:21 pm

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

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While the result of last Friday’s Mid-American Conference championship game was a disappointing one for the UB football team, they still have a game to look forward to. On Sunday afternoon, the Bulls learned that they’ll take on Troy University in the Dollar General Bowl in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Saturday, December 22.

“It’s a great day to be a Bull,” athletic director Mark Alnutt said on Sunday night. “Any time you have an opportunity to be invited to a bowl game and extend your season is a great one for this program and for our student athletes. We definitely want to be in a position to play on a national platform and send these seniors out a winner.”

Despite the MAC title game not going the way they had hoped, this year's UB team still has a chance to leave its legacy within the program. In their two previous bowl game appearances, the Bulls are 0-2. If UB can knock-off Troy, they would leave quite a stamp, having an 11-win season and earning the program’s first victory in a bowl game.

“When I looked at things early in the season, even one year ago today when we were left out, I wanted to get ourselves in a position where we could be the first team ever to win a bowl game at UB,” Bulls head coach Lance Leipold said. “I told that to our team on Friday after the game that win or lose, that was going to be a goal that we would have. As they made their mark, winning a bowl game would be the exclamation point. We can still do that and we’re excited about it.”

Similar to Leipold, the players share that excitement about playing in a bowl game. Since they were not offered a bid last season, despite being 6-6 and bowl eligible, the Bulls have carried a chip on their shoulder and were fueled a bit by being snubbed from postseason play.

“It means a lot to this team, to this program and to this university to get an opportunity to go to a bowl game,” senior linebacker Khalil Hodge said. “Because last year we didn’t. And so we’re definitely not taking that for granted at all. We still have a huge game to look forward to and to prepare for.”

Hodge admitted that players were still a bit upset about the loss to NIU, but they’re excited to play another game.

“We’re obviously down a little bit just because you put everything you have into the MAC Championship and when it doesn’t go your way it’s tough,” senior center James O’Hagan added. “But I was telling guys today, the true test of a champion is not getting knocked down, but how you get up from getting knocked down.”

The Bulls have almost made bouncing back and responding to adversity a brand of theirs. Two seasons ago, UB finished the year 2-10. Now, the program is in the midst of, possibly, it’s best season ever. Last December, this team was left out of a bowl game despite meeting the qualifications. This year, they made sure there was no doubt they would be in the postseason. For the senior class and the players that have joined the program as Leipold-recruits, winning this bowl game would cap-off a two-year run that has rejuvenated the entire program.

“I think it’s just been really special to see how far this team has come,” quarterback Tyree Jackson said. “The coaches have done an unbelievable job. I think they’ve just remained consistent this whole time and I think that’s really what has made us make that jump. It’s that consistency and the guys buying into that. This is a real close team. You don’t have to worry about guys breaking off and going their own ways. I think everyone is excited for the bowl game now and want to go out on the right note.”

On Monday afternoon, Hodge and fellow senior, wide receiver Anthony Johnson accepted invitations to play in the Senior Bowl as well.

The players will get a bit of a break from football while coaches go out and do some recruiting over the next few days. They’ll get back to work next week and begin the preparation for Troy.

“I know they’ll be an excited group to take the field again,” Leipold said.

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