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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A long time between drinks

     October 31, 1970 -- This turned into a landmark moment for the football program of the University of Buffalo (at it was called at the time), even if no one knew it at the time.

     The Bulls played Holy Cross at Rotary Field, and they won, 16-0. It turned out to be UB's last win against a Division I-A team for almost three decades.

     The game is best remembered for the halftime show, oddly enough. The UB band was planning on putting on an anti-Vietnam War demonstration, as the game was shown on ABC. However, the network didn't want to mix football and politics at the time. So, play-by-play man Bob Murphy wrapped up the first half, and the network cut away from the band -- an unusual step for that era.

     The Bulls were having trouble making ends meet back then. They finished with losses such as a 65-12 defeat against Boston College and a 43-21 rout at Northern Illinois.

     The offense had trouble generating many points. UB only scored 21 points twice in the season, and lost both of the games. Quarterback Kirk Barton threw one touchdown pass and had 17 passes intercepted.

     UB was said to have a good freshman team coming along, but it never played a down for the varsity. The university killed the football team in early 1971, and it didn't play big-time competition until 1999.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Here come the hats!

     October 30, 1971 -- It didn't take long for the Sabres' top draft choice of 1971, Rick Martin, to show he was a talented scorer.

     Martin hadn't even finished his first month in the National Hockey League when he had the first of his 21 hat tricks. The outburst came as the Sabres earned a 4-4 tie with the Vancouver Canucks, another expansion team from the Class of 1970.

     Martin's first goal came in the first period, and he had two more in the third. Gerry Meehan scored the other goal for Buffalo, which almost let a point get away after taking a 4-2 lead. Vancouver scored twice in the last 11 minutes to tie the game up.

     The Sabres were outshot, 37-16, in this game. As you might have guessed, Roger Crozier played well enough to keep the Sabres in the game.

     As for Martin, the left winger was a great fit with Gil Perreault on the Sabres' top line, as they were a potent combination for most of the rest of the decade. Talk about a sniper -- Martin might have had the most accurate slap shot in recent NHL history.

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: At the circus

   October 29, 1973 -- Plenty of people remember this particular Bills game, which they won by a 23-14 score over the Kansas City Chiefs.

   It was the first Monday Night Football home game in Buffalo history, as Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell and Don Meredith came to the town for the game. It's difficult to describe the excitement that the Monday night broadcasts carried back then. Let's just say it helped to create a carnival atmosphere in the stadium.

   O.J. Simpson did the rest when it came to excitement. The Bills' running back ran for 157 yards on 39 carries and two first-quarter touchdowns as he went past the 1,000-yard mark for the season after only seven games.

   Joe Ferguson didn't have to do much for the Bills. The quarterback was 6 for 11 for 63 yards. Bob Chandler and J.D. Hill caught three passes each.

   It was a nice bounceback win for Buffalo, which had lost to Miami the previous week. That was nothing unusual, since the Dolphins won every game between the teams in the entire decade.

   The Bills were 5-2 after the Kansas City win and were headed toward a winning season. Simpson would run for about another 1,000 yards in the second half of the season.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits' notebook: Crossover plan

Earlier this week, the National Lacrosse League announced its playoff format for the upcoming season. There was some mystery about that, since the league had lost the Boston franchise in the offseason. That left nine teams spread over two divisions in the NLL, and an existing format of eight teams.

What to do? The league opted to again have eight teams qualify for the postseason. However, since the East only has four teams, it added a wrinkle. The fourth place team in the East actually will compete for the playoff spot with the fifth-place team in the West. The team with the better record will gain the spot, so a West team could in theory cross over and grab the fourth slot in the East.

I'm not so sure I like the idea of playing 16 games to eliminate one team. I remember when the NHL used to be criticized for playing 80 games to eliminate five of 21 teams from the postseason. Two alternatives no doubt were considered:

* Cut the playoff teams down to four, two in each division, and have the top two in each division play for the division title, and then have the winners meet for the league title.

* Give the first-place teams a bye, have No. 2 play No. 3 in each division, the winners move on to play the division winners, and then those winners meet in the final.

The adopted system does give us three weekends of playoff action in May, with extra home dates for teams and possible television opportunities. Still, that's a lot of lacrosse in order to merely decide home-field advantage in the postseason. Bottom line -- I'd feel better about the league if it were at least 10 teams (and 12 would be even better).

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Breeders' Cup fun facts

By Gene Kershner

Since the pre-entries have been announced earlier this week for the 15 races to be held next weekend at Churchill Downs in Louisville, let's take a look at some fun facts surrounding this year's Breeders' Cup.

*A record 193 horses were pre-entered, 29 from overseas.

*$26 million in purse money is at stake.

*Uncle Mo is one of eight former Breeders' Cup champions that have pre-entered. The others are Big Drama, California Flag, Chamberlain Bridge, Eldaafer, Goldikova, Midday (GB) and Shared Account.

*Goldikova will be seeking a fourth straight BC Mile title.

*The Breeders' Cup will be televised live on ABC/ESPN and in more than 130 foreign countries.

*Havre de Grace, running in the Classic against the boys, is the daughter of 2005 Breeders' Cup Classic champion Saint Liam.

*Chantal Sutherland, the jockey for Game On Dude, will look become the first female rider to win the Classic.

*The last two winners of the Belmont Stakes, Drosselmeyer (2010) and Ruler On Ice (2011) are both pre-entered in the Classic.

*Horses looking to defend their 2010 Breeders' Cup titles, other than Goldikova, include Shared Account (BC Filly and Mare Turf), Chamberlain Bridge (BC Turf Sprint) and Big Drama (BC Sprint). 2009 BC Turf Sprint winner California Flag also is pre-entered in the Turf Sprint.

*The Breeders' Cup marketing folks have released 2011 iPad and iPhone apps.

*The BC Classic is scheduled to go off at 7 p.m. Saturday evening (Nov. 5) and the Ladies Classic at 7:30 p.m. on Friday evening (Nov. 4).

Following the closing of pre-entries earlier in the week, the Breeders' Cup Committee moved the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile to the 10th race on Saturday's program, switching it with the $3 million Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf, which will now be run as the eighth race.

The $2 million Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile will now be run as the ninth race on the Saturday program, and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile will now be run as the seventh race.

"Due to the heightened international interest in Goldikova's quest for an unprecedented fourth consecutive TVG Breeders' Cup Mile, we believe that moving the Mile to later in Saturday's program will provide a fitting tribute to this extraordinary challenge," said Craig Fravel, President and CEO of Breeders' Cup Ltd. "Given the Triple Crown implications of the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile, we also believe that placing this race later in the program puts the spotlight on next year's potential stars going into their 3-year-old campaigns."

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Flutie's return

   October 28, 2001 -- There were all sorts of angles when the Bills played the Chargers on this day, and most of them centered on the quarterbacks. Buffalo had decided to keep Rob Johnson instead of Doug Flutie after the 2000 season. Now Flutie was back in Buffalo to fact his old teammates in a San Diego Chargers' uniform.

   The game turned out to be a classic. The Bills scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:30 left to take a 24-20 lead. But Flutie ran 13 yards for a score after that to give the Chargers the lead. When the Chargers blocked a last-gasp field goal attempt, they had the 27-24 win.

    "Near the end of the game, I was thinking that this is what we had in mind when we went out and got these two guys for the Bills," said Chargers Assistant General Manager A.J. Smith, the former Bills pro scout. "It went haywire, of course, because of circumstance. But this was two very good quarterbacks out there going at it."

    Johnson completed 24 of 37 passes for 310 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He rushed for a team-high 67 yards on 11 scrambles. Flutie completed 21 of 33 passes for 254 yards with one touchdown pass to go along with his decisive TD run.

   Johnson had a 1-7 record as a starter and was gone from Buffalo after that season. By the way, Flutie's backup quarterback in the game was Drew Brees. We'd hear more about him in the years to come.

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Rugged training schedule

I received a note from Christina Gesi of Georgia. Her husband, Paul, grew up in Tonawanda and is getting ready to run in the upcoming New York City marathon. The catch is where he did his training for the race: Afghanistan

Christina reports that Paul was in Camp Eggers, and ran 1,600 while he was deployed. There's nothing like 80-mile weeks in one of the world's most polluted cities to build up endurance. New York ought to be easy after all that, so best of luck to him.

Now the weekend schedule, courtesy of Buffalorunners.com:

* Jack O'Lantern Fall Classic, 5K, Goat Island in Niagara Falls, 10 a.m. Saturday, 282-1228. This remains a great course, even if standing water can be a problem on a given day. Prize money for the top five ought to attract some really good runners.

* Heritage 5K, Ellery Town Park in Greenhurst, 10 a.m. Saturday, 985-6712. By the way, Greenhurst is northwest of Jamestown on Chautauqua Lake.

* Cancer Warrior 5K, Saylor Community Building, 12861 Route 438 in Irving, 10:30 a.m. Saturday 532-8450 X5722.

* Making Tracks for Families 5K, 2909 South Park Ave. in Lackawanna, 10 a.m. Sunday, 858-2671. The race is held in Holy Cross Cemetery, you won't find a course with more turns in it over 3.1 miles than this one.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Bringing in a friend

   October 27, 1993 -- No one ever questioned John Muckler's loyalty.

   Craig Muni helped coach John Muckler win a Stanley Cup for the Edmonton Oilers in 1990. When Muckler needed help on defense more than three years later while serving in Buffalo, he made a trade to acquire the rugged Muni.

   Buffalo sent Keith Carney to Chicago to acquire Muni. The Sabres had lost Petr Svoboda and Denis Tsygurov to injuries early in the 1993-94 season, so Muni was a welcome addition.

   "The thing that really set us back was Svoboda," Muckler told The News' Jim Kelley. "When we found out he couldn't play on a regular basis ... that hurt us considerably."

   "I don't think I got the ice time in Chicago and I'm probably going to get it in Buffalo," Muni said. "They were using me in limited situations and I don't think I'm ready for that kind of a role yet."

   Muni stayed a Sabre through the middle of the 1995-96 season, and was as tough and dependable as advertised. By the way, Carney played for five different NHL teams after leaving Buffalo through 2008.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Long distance

   October 26, 1963 -- On a relatively warm Saturday in War Memorial Stadium, Charley Ferguson provided the finish to a game to remember.

   The Bills were hosting the Boston Patriots, who were becoming the Bills' biggest divisional rival in that era. Buffalo had rebounded to win two of three after starting 0-3-1.

   Buffalo had gotten three touchdown runs by, of all people, Jack Kemp. All were on 1-yard runs. Boston had three touchdowns as well, two coming on passes by veteran quarterback Babe Parilli.

   That set the stage for Ferguson. Kemp found him with a 72-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, and the Bills walked away with a thrilling 28-21 win.

   Kemp finished 18 for 36 for 317 yards, while Ferguson caught three passes for 109 yards. Cookie Gilchrist was held to 49 yards rushing.

   Ferguson had spent two years in the National Football League before arriving in Buffalo in 1963. He played four years here, with 46 career receptions.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Huge acquisition

     October 25, 1991 -- The Buffalo Sabres wanted to crank up their offense and generate interest in the fall of 1991. They were trying to convince civic leaders that the area still had plenty of enthusiasm for its hockey team so they could receive funding for a new arena. So they acquired one of the most exciting players in team history.

     Pat LaFontaine came to Buffalo in a trade that was one of the two biggest in team history. (The Schoenfeld/Gare deal with Detroit in 1981 might be bigger.)

     LaFontaine didn't come alone. Buffalo also picked up forward Randy Wood, defenseman Randy Hillier, and an undisclosed draft choice. Headed to New York were center Pierre Turgeon, defenseman Uwe Krupp, and forwards Benoit Hogue and Dave McLlwain.

     LaFontaine was in the midst of a contract dispute that had him on the sidelines. If the Islanders were going to trade the personable and talented player, they wanted a star in return. Turgeon met that need.

     LaFontaine had some of the best years in his career in Buffalo, teaming up with Alexander Mogilny to form a dynamic combination. Sure enough, the new arena got built. It was never called "the house that Pat built," but he certainly made a contribution.

     Turgeon had his best year while playing for the Islanders in 1992-93, piling up 132 points. He was traded to the Montreal Canadiens and played for three other teams. Turgeon finished with 1,327 points -- one more than Sabre great Gil Perreault.

--- Budd Bailey

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