BUFFALO, W.Va. - When the tide started to turn, Buffalo's defense turned it in favor of the Bison, preventing points and eventually securing a victory against Wirt County on Friday night.
Wirt moved the football with some ease against Buffalo, but never truly capitalized to take control as the Bison won its Homecoming contest 23-21. Buffalo forced three interceptions, including one in the red zone, a fumble and recovered a late onside kick to thwart Wirt's potential scoring drives.
"Our defense, we might bend and bend and bend, but we never break," senior Levi Jordan said.
Jordan collected two key interceptions, including one in the first half that led to Jordan's own 36-yard field goal. The field goal gave Buffalo a 16-13 advantage at halftime.
Late in the third quarter, Jordan struck again, intercepting Wirt's Josh Trembly at the Buffalo 8-yard line.
"As a senior, I have to step it up, and I just read the quarterback's eyes," Jordan said of the interception, "and luckily I was able to jump the route and be right there."
The pick proved key as Buffalo led 23-14 at the time and a Tigers scored would have cut the Bison (5-1) advantage to a single possession.
Buffalo Coach Mike Sawyer said the team's defense studied Wirt (4-2) intently to find weaknesses and possible turnover opportunities.
"We worked on some different things that we've seen them do, and we tried to change it up on them in the secondary to see if we could keep them off-balance and it seemed to work," he said.
Isaiah Robinson secured Buffalo's final interception midway through the fourth quarter, but the defense had more work to do. Also in the fourth, Braxton Gritt fell on a Wirt fumble to end another Tigers drive.
Tigers Coach Jason Hickman said the miscues hampered Wirt's ability against a solid squad in Buffalo.
"Honestly, when you're playing a great team like they are, you can't have as many mistakes as we had," he said.
Neither change in possession resulted in a Bison score, but keeping the ball away from the Tigers proved vital.
Wirt scored on Trembly's 2-yard rush with 58 seconds remaining in the game to pull within two points, trailing 23-21.
The defense appropriately recovered the ensuing onside kick, collected by Lucas Jividen.
As the defense worked hard and eventually sealed the win, the outcome was hardly evident in the first half.
Buffalo scored the game's first points on a 21-yard pass from Jordan to Robinson. Wirt later tied the contest on a Trembly 2-yard rush. In the second quarter, Trembly connected with John Stephens for a 24-yard touchdown reception.
The Bison responded with a 29-yard touchdown rush by Bubba Legg, but the kick failed and Buffalo trailed 14-13.
With 1:07 left in the first half, Jordan struck for his first interception. Jordan intercepted Trembly's pass and returned it 39 yard to the Tigers 14-yard line. Buffalo failed to gain a single yard, but Jordan connected on a 36-yard field goal to take the lead, one the Bison did not surrender from that point.
Buffalo added to its lead late in the third quarter on a drive fueled by Legg's 35-yard run on a designed fake punt.
"That's the first time we ran it this year," Legg said. "It really worked. I don't look for us to run it too much more, because I have a feeling they'll be concentrating on it, but I'm glad we ran it, and I think I sort of broke us over and got us more fired up than what it would have if it hadn't worked."
Tucker scored on a 6-yard touchdown rush one play after the fake punt and the Bison led 23-14.