Kamathi Holsey speaks for his Buffalo Bulls teammates when he says that he is disappointed to have missed out on a bowl game.
Disappointed is the word that Buffalo Bulls players are using to describe their feelings right now.
It’s been less than 72 hours since the NCAA committee informed the State University of New York at Buffalo that it would not be going bowling in 2017, and the reality of it is just starting to sink in.
Despite a four-win turnaround and some of the best individual performances in the country, UB is one of just three bowl-eligible teams not to get invited to the postseason. “The Bulls were quietly one of the great turnaround stories in college football this year,” says Alex Kirshner of SB Nation. “They went from 2-10 in 2016, Lance Leipold’s second season as head coach, to a bowl game if they hadn’t gotten unfortunately left out.”
UB’s résumé was impressive: “Battling injury and adversity, we won the final three games of the regular season for the first time as an FBS program to earn bowl eligibility,” athletic director Allan Greene wrote in a post. “We threw for a school-record 3,490 yards and rolled up over 5,000 yards of total offense for just the second time as an FBS program…
“We are so proud of all the alumni and fans in the Western New York Community and across the country that stepped up and voiced their support for the Bulls over the past week in an effort to earn a bowl invite. Your voices did not go unheard by our players, coaches and staff.”
This sentiment was echoed by Kamathi Holsey, a Junior College transfer who enjoyed a breakout senior campaign. In a phone interview with Elite Sports New York, the wide receiver called Western New York a “special” place, and emphasized that he and his teammates are disheartened by the end result: “We went 2-10 last year, so we put in the work over the offseason to get better. I am proud of everybody on this team… but of course, I am also disappointed that we didn’t make a bowl game.”
Holsey pointed to UB’s wins over Florida Atlantic and Ohio — two Bowl-bound programs — as evidence that the school should have been selected for a Bowl game this year. Besides their apparent strength of schedule advantages, Buffalo also had a top-ranked receiver, linebacker and center. They strung together three consecutive wins to end the season and competed in the highest-scoring game in college football history (a seven-overtime, 71-68 loss to Western Michigan).
“I thought we should have made it,” Holsey remarked.
Holsey, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound wideout from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had 32 receptions for 548 yards and a touchdown this season. He was the second option in a passing attack that also featured Anthony Johnson, a JuCo recruit who finished third in the nation in receiving yards despite playing with three different quarterbacks (Tyree Jackson, Drew Anderson and Kyle Vantrease).
Buffalo finished 22nd in the country in passing offense, and Holsey was a large part of the reason why. He was one of the club’s most invaluable seniors, contributing both on-and off-the-field with his flashy stats and words of wisdom.
He imparts his vast knowledge because he has seen it all — academic struggles, Junior College, DI ball and NFL aspirations. During our 15-minute conversation, Holsey repeatedly stressed the importance of following “The Process”. This is a kid who has literally breathed it.
Holsey gained notoriety when he flipped from Troy University to Buffalo on National Signing Day 2016, something he does “not regret” because of “how much football I learned in Buffalo,” he says. “Coach [Rob Ianello] has coached guys like Golden Tate and Michael Floyd — just seeing that has really helped me with my confidence.”
As the season wore on, Holsey’s production mirrored that of his team’s. He had 75 or more receiving yards in four of his last five games, including a 143-yard, one touchdown performance against Western Michigan in that epic classic.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Holsey posted on Facebook that “this game has changed my life taking me out of the hood in Philly and letting me see the world.” He really means it. Holsey is currently fighting for a Senior Bowl invite; quite the leap for someone who was in Independence Community College just a little more than two years ago.
Meanwhile, Buffalo’s athletic programs finally seem to be taking a step in the right direction. The football team is an early favorite to win the MAC East next season; Holsey believes that “with Jackson, Johnson and Anderson returning next year, we should be a real contender.” The basketball team is currently in first place, and their 2017 recruiting class is the highest-rated in program history. It’s a new day in Buffalo sports.
Holsey made the leap from JuCo to DI. Buffalo is about to make the leap from doormat to contender. The sun is shining brightly on Buffalo, New York.