For once, Brett Kern’s parents didn’t have to take a road trip to see their son play college football.

Surely, however, Calvin and Sharon Kern would prefer the discomfort of a long car ride to the disappointment of seeing their son struggle in his first local game since graduating from Grand Island High School in 2004.

Brett Kern, a Toledo senior, entered Saturday’s game at UB Stadium ranked second in the country with a 47-yard punting average. He secured more than 55 tickets for family and friends to watch him battle the Buffalo Bulls — and the Western New York winds.

But his first play ended in disaster. UB’s Alex Pierre broke through into the backfield and prevented Kern from getting off a punt. Kern was charged with a fumble that led to the Bulls gaining possession nine yards from the Toledo end zone. Seconds later, UB led 14-0, and eventually went on to win 43-33.

A discouraging moment for the Kern clan was an emotional lift for the Bulls (3-4, 3-1 Mid-American Conference).

“That was a big moment,” UB coach Turner Gill said. “That’s one thing I talked about with the team. The last two weeks we haven’t been very good on special teams. I said, ‘We have to win the special teams in this football game.’ Our guys responded pretty well.”

It was the second time this season Pierre has disrupted a punt, but both times he was too quick to be able to block the kick.

Kern did get off a 55-yard punt later in the game, and dropped one punt inside the 20-yard line. But he also kicked one into the swirling wind that went just 26 yards. He averaged 38 yards on four punts.

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The Rockets (2-5, 0-3) gained 518 yards on 101 offensive plays. They picked up 31 first downs and held the ball for 34:08.

Wideout Stephen Williams caught 15 passes, tying a school record, for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback D.J. Lenehan, a true freshman, completed 32-of-50 passes for 307 yards and one interception. Jalen Parmele rushed 29 times for 171 yards and a touchdown.

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Drew Willy’s 75-yard touchdown pass to Ernest Jackson was the longest pass play of his career. It was also Jackson’s longest career gain. Jackson caught four passes for a career-high 107 yards and two touchdowns.

Willy completed 8-of-16 passes for 172 yards and a career-high three touchdowns and didn’t throw an interception. He was 0-for-6 in the second half.

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The Bulls again started four true freshman on defense: Cornerbacks Domonic Cook (St. Joe’s) and Josh Thomas, safety Davonte Shannon and linebacker Fred Branch.

Shannon led the team with 15 total tackles. He had two solo tackles for loss and combined on another.

Cook had a career-high 11 total tackles and blocked an extra point in the second quarter. UB also had an extra point blocked.

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Naaman Roosevelt’s touchdown, which came when the St. Joe’s graduate recovered his own fumble in the end zone following a 32-yard reception, was his first of the season. ... Safety Mike Newton intercepted a pass thrown by Williams in the first half. ... Backup defensive tackle Mike Thompson, who started four games last year but had yet to register a tackle this season, had an interception and a half-sack. ... Ben Woods placed two of his five punts downed inside the 20. ... The Bulls averaged more than 25 yards on seven kickoff returns, despite the Rockets’ efforts to kick high and short to prevent long returns. ... Tailback Mario Henry and cornerback Kendric Hawkins did not dress due to knee injuries. ... UB announced a paid attendance of 12,559.

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