It was well after 8 o’clock Saturday night when Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin broke up the middle 12 yards for the winning touchdown to beat Buffalo. That’s worth mentioning, because they kicked off at 3:45 p.m.The four hours and 31 minutes in between were a rollicking fireworks show that rattled the windows of the record book and seemed as if it would never end. Until it finally did, after seven overtimes, matching the longest FBS games ever played.
As Franklin said afterward, “It was hard to score sometime . . . we were banging our heads against a brick wall. But we knew that we could go all day.”
And as Buffalo coach Lance Leipold said in defeat, “As I told the team, at 53 years old, I’ve been to a lot of football games in my career and this is probably the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of . . . I feel sorry for the people who left.”
Here’s one remarkable game by the numbers.
71-68 – Saturday’s final score. Nobody had ever put up 68 points and lost an FBS game before.
66-54 – The final score in the Buffalo-Western Michigan basketball game last winter, won by the Bulls. Western Michigan did not score 71 points in 12 basketball games last season.
139 – Combined points, the most for a game in FBS history.
60.8 – The combined scoring average for the two teams coming into Saturday. Western Michigan (now 4-2) was 32nd in the nation in scoring, Buffalo (now 3-3) was 100th.
40-37 – What the two teams scored Saturday after the clock hit 0:00 in regulation. This would have been the seventh-highest-scoring FBS game in the nation over the weekend, just on overtime points alone.
19 – Touchdowns scored by the two teams.
13 – Passing touchdowns.
13 – Passing touchdowns for both teams for the entire season coming into Saturday.
597 – Passing yards for Buffalo quarterback Drew Anderson against Western Michigan.
196.8 – Average passing yardage per game for Buffalo before Saturday, 91st in the nation.
7 – Touchdown passes thrown by Anderson.
5 – Touchdown passes thrown by Buffalo quarterbacks in the five games before Saturday.
2 – Western Michigan players over 100 yards rushing; Franklin with 176 and LeVante Bellamy with 131.
4 – Franklin’s rushing yardage at halftime.
102 – Franklin’s yardage in overtime. “We kept handing it to him and kept handing it to him,” coach Tim Lester said. “You look him in the eye, he’s not rattled one bit, in the seventh overtime, or sixth, or fifth, or fourth.
3 – Buffalo players over 100 yards of pass receiving; Anthony Johnson with 195, Kamathi Holsey with 143 and K.J. Osborn with 138.
72, 64, 54, 53 – Longest catches Saturday by each of Buffalo’s top four receivers.
63 – First downs.
4 – Turnovers.
193 – Plays from scrimmage.
It's over!— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 8, 2017
Western Michigan beats Buffalo 71-68 – yes, 71-68 – in SEVEN overtimes. It's the highest-scoring game in FBS history. pic.twitter.com/pkUhGU5BET
6 – Two-point conversion attempts, which used a lot of the playbook. “We were running out of them,” Lester said.
6.88 – Average gain every time the ball was snapped.
10 – Lead changes, counting overtime.
597-269 – Buffalo’s advantage in passing yardage.
376-86 – Western Michigan’s advantage in rushing yardage.
1 – Sisters who ran onto the field to celebrate a touchdown and hug her brother. That would be Donnie Ernsberger’s, apparently thinking his touchdown catch in the first overtime won the game. It didn’t. She was led away. The night went on. Some of this stuff, you couldn’t make up.
8 – Years since Western Michigan won an overtime game.
11 – Years since the last seven-overtime game in FBS football.
“I don’t think we played well,” Lester said, “but we just kept battling and found a way to win.”
It’s not often a football team scores 71 points, and has to rally on its last possession.