The B Screams for Buffalo Meat: A Texan's New York Odyssey, Part Two
The B Screams For Buffalo Meat: An Ever-So-Slightly Gonzo Tale Of Fear, Loathing and Football In The Savage Heart of the University at Buffalo (Part Two of Two)
An introductory note. I completely forgot, in the first installment, to note that this game was between the Bears and the Bulls, and to make the obligatory stock market jokes. I cannot tell you how sorry I am. If I keep this up, I’m never going to make it on ESPN’s Around The Horn. If you’re writing a humor post on sports, and you can’t make the cheapest, most obvious, stupid pun that you can think of, there just isn’t any hope for you. You ought to just go back to your law practice and give up sportswriting altogether. I mean, the slowest, dullest sportswriter in the country would have picked up on “Bulls versus Bears”. I mean, Skip Bayless would have caught on to that one. I don’t even want to talk about it.
So let’s talk about football. You can talk about matchups, you can talk about formations, you can talk about X’s and O’s all day long, but everybody knows that it comes down to one man at the center of the storm. The quarterback. The gunslinger. The confident, daring leader of men.
And you know, when you have Blake “The Polish Rifle” “Blizzle Sizzle” Szymanski on your side, that’s a good thing, especially compared to the alternative:
“Shut up, Tyler.”
“Or a helmet. You’d think we’d at least get a helmet.”
“I don’t want to hear it.”
“Hey, at least you got a hat. I didn’t even get a hat.”
“I swear to God, I shouldn’t ever have left Kent State.”
In the first quarter, the Baylor defense did a good job of keeping Buffalo pinned deep in their territory; the Bulls didn’t sniff the fifty-yard line until the end of the first quarter, where they promptly fumbled the ball away.
But Blizzle Sizzle and the Baylor offense weren’t exactly a rolling ball of butcher knives, either. Despite great field position – starting their initial drives at the Baylor 35 and 37 – Baylor faltered, with Szymanski going 2-7 for 13 yards in the opening stanza.
The punter, traditionally the most valuable weapon in the Baylor arsenal.
Fortunately, Buffalo struggled worse offensively than the Bears, giving up a Jordan Lake interception that Baylor on the Buffalo 20. But the Bears were pushed back by penalties, and had to settle for a Shane Brewster field goal. And then… well, to get the true sense of what happened next, I have to crib a little from Dr. Thompson’s notebook.
We were somewhere around Buffalo on the edge of the second quarter when the hallucinations began to take hold. I remember saying something like, “There’s a giant blue bull in a football uniform standing over on the concourse.” Reality suddenly veered off the road and we came to a sliding halt in the gravel. What were we doing out here? What was the meaning of this trip? Was there actually a giant blue fuzzy thing with horns parading around the stadium, or had they laced the stadium nachos with some sort of 1960’s psychedelic psychotropic substance? There was madness in the air, in every direction.
Putting a ring in your mascot’s nose doesn’t absolutely guarantee that your program will be at the absolute rock-bottom nadir of Division I-A football, but Lordy, it can’t help.
And I took a picture, which was – well, call it a mistake, but the damned thing actually came over to where I was – decked out in full Baylor regalia, mind you – and looked at me, with those cold dead eyes, and pointed.
Actual photographic evidence of an actual mascot from the worst Division I-A team in NCAA football taunting an opposing Baylor fan.
I handled it the Baylor way, with class. I just pointed to the scoreboard. “Three-nothing, pal, check it out.” And that was how the first quarter ended.
This is where you thought things would turn the corner. This is where you thought the B would start to dominate. This is where you thought that Blizzle would, you know, take charge:
“This is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world. It can take your head clean off. You've got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky?”
And for one drive, it looked like the long-promised Air Bear offense was flying high. Nine straight passes, six completions, one for a touchdown, and Baylor had the 10-0 lead and was on its way to total domination of the Bulls. The defense held on the ensuing possession, and all that was left was to take it to the house. But the Polish Rifle started misfiring. Two incompletions, a sack, and an interception led to a missed Buffalo field goal. More offensive problems eventually led to a Buffalo touchdown, and Baylor went into halftime with a 10-7 lead, but without anything resembling momentum. Was Szymanski the real thing? Was Air Bear for real? And – most disturbing of all – was GuyMo going to be able to pull this one out on the road?
“We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending Baylor football. You Bear Meat people use them as a punchline.”
When you’re not in sync offensively, when you’re inconsistent, when you struggle, there’s only one thing you can do:
“Get rhythm / When you get the blues /
Come on get rhythm / when you get the blues”
And that’s what happened. The B took the kickoff and started running the ball, getting five or six yards a pop. Syzmanski hit a key third-down pass into Buffalo territory, and got another long pass plus a penalty. A Syzmanski touchdown pass later, and the Bears were up 17-7. Jordan Lake got his second interception of the night on the ensuing possession, and Baylor was in complete control.
Then things got a little wacky.
You see – or maybe you don’t – Baylor’s running progress in the third quarter had been the result of running a particular draw play. Syzmanski would hand off from the shotgun, and then fake a naked bootleg the other way. The fake never worked, really, but the play was usually good for a few yards. You can see it here, in all its splendor, in this first-quarter shot; Blizzle hands the ball to Jay Finley, headed for the left corner, and heads out right without the ball, hoping to lead the defense astray.
Nothing up my sleeve, and… presto! Where’s the football?
Well, eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, the B up comfortably by 10, second-and-six from the thirty-nine, all the trickery paid off. Blizzle Sizzle kept the ball, scooted around the end on a naked bootleg, and picked up thirty yards. The play gave the Bears first-and-goal at the Buffalo nine, which was good. It was exciting, which sounds good, but isn’t. Many things are exciting. Driving down I-35 at a hundred miles an hour with a pint of Rebel Yell in your flask and three more in your belly is exciting. (Not that I’ve done it, myself, but I hear it’s exciting.) Dating a stripper is exciting. (Ditto.) Sneaking out of your best friend’s wedding an hour before the ceremony to eat cheese sticks and cannoli at the Italian place down the street is exciting. (Um, actually did that one; don’t recommend it.)
Let me put this another way. You watch Animal Planet, and you see the lone gazelle, bounding across the Serengeti, on his way to the water hole. Beautiful? Yeah. Compelling? Yeah. Dangerous? Yeah. Exciting? Sure, right up until the moment when a leopard comes rocketing out of nowhere and bites the gazelle’s head clean off.
And it was all for nothing, was the funny part – Baylor got down to fourth-and-goal on the one, went for it, didn’t make it. But Buffalo couldn’t convert, either, and a short punt led to a Baylor touchdown. Buffalo got the ball back on the kickoff – again with lousy field position – and on the first play, Drew “Don’t Touch My” Willy threw an ill-advised pass over to the middle, which ended up as a fumble recovered by sticky-fingered Jordan Lake.
“Two interceptions, a fumble recovery, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, and this is the best picture anyone took of me? Unbelievable.”
And that led to another Baylor field goal, putting the Bears comfortably on top, 27-7 – to the point where they couldn’t possibly blow it in the fourth. I mean, it couldn’t happen.
“You know, it’s surprising how easy it is to kick a field goal on the road when there aren’t any fans sitting in the seats behind the end zone.”
It’s probably best if we just don’t talk about the fourth quarter.
Well, there was a lot of scoring. I mean, that was good.
“AAAAAAAAYYYYYYY… let’s get this over with in time to hit room service at the Marriott… Sic ‘em Bears!!!”
I mean, so what if Buffalo scored two touchdowns? Isn’t the final score all that matters?
“Look, if we somehow manage to get six wins, the people at the Fort Worth Bowl aren’t going to care if we let Buffalo back in the game in the fourth quarter.”
And there was the play where GuyMo called that naked bootleg, again, and Blizzle scored the clinching touchdown, which would be great if, you know, nobody else in the Big XII watched game film, and realized, “Hey, when we play Baylor, have a linebacker shadow the Polish kid, and smear him into the turf whenever he does that naked bootleg.” Because it’s going to happen. You know it’s going to happen. And when it happens, it is not going to be pretty. It is going to be uglier than Chris Crocker without eyeliner.
Informal meeting of the “Let’s Not Get Blake Syzmanski Killed On The Football Field Society.” (Coach Guy Morriss not pictured.)
But it wasn’t the time to focus on the negatives. It wasn’t time to think about whether dominating a weak Buffalo squad was a good tune-up for playing the Agriculturalists at Kyle Field. It wasn’t time to think about how much money you were going to lose the next day at video poker at the casinos on the Canadian side. It wasn’t time to think about the five-hour delay you’d face the next afternoon at the Buffalo airport.
It was time to savor the sweet smell of victory.
“You know, most people would kill... to be treated like a god, just for a few moments.”
And I think that’s the best place to end it, right there. Sic ‘em.