September 19, 2012

Inside Buff State's final drive

More news about: Buffalo State
The last-minute heroics by the Buffalo State offense were made possible by the strong performance of the Buffalo State defense.
UW-Whitewater athletics photo

Casey Kacz had been here before -- down by six points, a minute and a half to go, one timeout.

Of course, it had been in practice, with considerably fewer eyes on him. And it had been in Buffalo, N.Y. -- just a few miles from his home in Amherst, N.Y. -- not Whitewater, Wis. And it had been against his own team's defense, not the stout unit of the three-time defending national champions.

But there was no time to focus on that. There were 75 yards sitting between Kacz and the pinnacle of his football career. A mere 75 yards separated Buffalo State from a program-defining moment and perhaps the greatest regular-season upset in Division III football history, certainly in recent memory.

"We practice this every week," Kacz told himself on the field. But even Kacz couldn't have imagined how this one would play out.

The drive started out well enough, as Kacz hit Sherman Nelson for a 14-yard pass. First down, Buffalo State. Just a few more of those and the Bengals would be within striking distance of the end zone. But then came two incompletions, a false start and a sack, in that order.

The Bengals faced fourth-and-19 on their own 30-yard line. This was it. Nice try, Buffalo State, but teams just don't come to Whitewater and leave with wins. You sure gave it a hell of a shot, but like all the others, you'll come up short.

A funny thing happened though -- Buffalo State's players weren't ready to accept that. Coach Jerry Boyes, now in his fourth year of his second stint with the Bengals, dug deep into his bag of tricks and pulled out a dandy -- a hook and ladder/option play.

Here's the basic setup -- a receiver on the right runs an 8-yard hook while the slot receiver on the left runs a 5-yard dig. While this is happening, the running back floats out to the right flat and up the field. So, in theory, the quarterback throws to the receiver on the hook, who then immediately pitches it to the slot receiver crossing the middle. The slot receiver either runs for the first down, or again pitches it to the running back, who should be running adjacent to him.

It sounds good in theory, but what are the chances it would work against UW-Whitewater?

Kacz took the snap out of the shotgun and connected with receiver Ryan Carney over the middle, who then tossed it to Richard Pete, the crossing slot receiver, at the 35-yard line. Pete gained about 5 yards before flipping the ball to running back Brooks Estarfaa, who wasn't pushed out of bounds until he was inside the Warhawks' 40-yard line.

Now things were getting interesting.

"The last drive we kind of abandoned the game plan a little bit and just went with what we thought would work, and it worked out good," Kacz said. "Once we got that first down, I had a feeling we were going to score just because everyone on the field got a little more positive."

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