After going win-less in 1939, University officials and head football coach Jim Peelle dedicated themselves to an improved football team in 1940. Peelle led a small squad of 24 Buffalo players.
In an era long before fancy indoor practice facilities, improvisation was needed to practice in the cold, wet early spring weather. Using what was available to him, head coach Jim Peelle held spring training in an excavation, known as the ‘pit’, dug out for the future swimming pool in the Clark gym.
In early September, a two-week preseason training session was held near Crystal Beach in Canada. It was made possible by the generosity of William C. Baird, an enthusiastic U.B. booster.
Although Buffalo lost their first game, U.B. fans finally had something to cheer about for the first time in almost two years when the final whistle blew in the Drexel game as Buffalo won 20-13 at Rotary Field. Drexel was coached by Walter Halas, brother of George Halas, the owner-coach of the Chicago Bears. It was the first time the University at Buffalo had ever paired off against a Drexel team in any sport.
The signature win of the year came against the University of Connecticut in a game played at Storrs, CT. UConn was undefeated going into the 1940 game. Experts gave U.B. no chance of victory. But Buffalo upset the heavily favored Huskies as Vince Bonerb came off the bench to lead Buffalo to victory. (see “U.B. Wins From Connecticut” Buffalo Courier-Express, 27 October 1940)
The 3 win, 5 lost season was a huge improvement over the previous year. And with Buffalo’s best players, Dom Grossi, Gene Nuwer, and Al Trybuszewski, only a sophomores, the future looked bright.
For more information on football at the University at Buffalo, visit the UB Sports History Collection website.
1940 Buffalo Football Season
||20 – 6
||20 – 13
||Drexel Institute of Technology
||27 – 0
||19 – 0
||University of Connecticut
||6 – 7
||7 – 6
||City College of New York
||7 - 19
||0 - 6
FINAL RECORD: 6-3
Home: Rotary Field, Bailey and Winspear Avenues
Coach: James Peelle
- 1 – “Susquehanna in 20-6 Triumph Over Buffalo” Buffalo Courier-Express Buffalo, NY, 29 September 1940.
- 2 – “Trybuszewski, Grossi Star in Bulls Victory” Buffalo Courier-Express Buffalo, NY, 6 October 1940.
- 3 – “Buffalo Bows Before Rivals by 27-0 Score” Buffalo Courier-Express Buffalo, NY, 13 October 1940.
- 4 – “Saxons Defeat Buffalo, 19-0 in 4th Period“ Buffalo Courier-Express Buffalo, NY, 20 October 1940.
- 5 – “Vince Bonerb Sparks Bulls to 7-6 Victory” Buffalo Courier-Express Buffalo, NY, 27 October 1940.
- 6 – “Bowers, Grossi Lead Buffalo to Narrow Win” Buffalo Courier-Express Buffalo, NY, 3 November 1940.
- 7 – “Popalisky Has Field Day as Hobart Scores” Buffalo Courier-Express Buffalo, NY, 10 November 1940.
- 8 – “Wayne Downs U.B., 6-0, On Frozen Field” Buffalo Courier-Express Buffalo, NY, 17 November 1940.
U. B. WINS FROM CONNECTICUT
VINCE BONERB SPARKS BULLS TO 7-6 VICTORY
Substitute halfback runs, passes Buffalo eleven to winning score late in contest
Storrs, Conn., Oct. 26—It was a battle of individual stars as Buffalo and Connecticut universities met on Gardner Dow Field this afternoon, with the Bison warriors finding their champion in Vince Bonerb who didn’t even start, but paced the Blue and White striped visitors to an upset 7-6 win over the hitherto unbeaten Conn gridmen.
Nutmegger Bob Donnelly and Buffalo’s Gene Nuwer had a virtual monopoly of the ball handling during the first half as they passed, kicked, and did some spectacular running for their respective outfits, while Bonerb did not make his presence known until late in the game. Until the final drive that meant victory, he was just one of the five substitutes, all the visitors used.
First Loss for Nutmeggers
Cocky as a result of their unblemished record, the Connecticut gridmen found the going rather easy in the first two periods, as the Bisons were only able to tread on the Nutmeg side of the 50 yard line for one play—and that play resulted in a two yard loss. Meanwhile, Fred Mitchell climaxed a two period drive of 70 yards by plunging over from center.
Nuwer’s Pass Starts Drive
Third period started the same way. Buffalo being forced backward relentlessly until Donnelly booted a punt outside on their coffin corner. Then Nuwer completed a pass to Trybuszewski to start the first Buffalo drive that carried to the Connecticut 35.
Buffalo got to the bell in the fourth period and continued it attack. Bonerb made himself evident by throwing two passes in rapid succession to Rambath and Small, then skirted Connecticut’s end to score from the sixteen yard line. Grossi then proceeded to place-kick the conversion. A Nutmeg drive of 80 yards after that was halted and an attempted field goal blocked.
Connecticut’s place-kick artist, Ed Waltman, out with a stomach ailment, watched from the bench as Moe Paine missed the conversion that meant the difference between tie and loss.
— Buffalo Courier-Express, October 27, 1940