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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Live from Boise

Staff writer David J. Hill is our spud on the ground, bringing you updates every day throughout the week from the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. He'll also be tweeting from the game @UBCommunity.

A note from Danny White

portrait of Danny White

Published December 23, 2013 at 9:21 AM

Dear UB community,

While we didn't get the result we'd all hoped for, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl allowed us to capitalize on another opportunity to showcase the University at Buffalo in front of a national audience. It was your support that helped make this happen.

“I can't thank you all enough for your continued support and enthusiasm.”
Danny White, UB Athletics Director

Throughout this past week, we saw UB pride in full force from fans posting "horns up" photos on social media, alumni talking excitedly about their alma mater to coworkers and friends, and students wearing their UB Blue in anticipation for the big game. I can't thank you all enough for your continued support and enthusiasm.

UB athletics is committed to ensuring that our appearance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is not simply a one-off event. We expect to compete for championships in all of our 20 sports, putting our teams and UB in the national spotlight. As I've said before, the University at Buffalo has more potential than any other athletic department in the country and I appreciate you all helping us show why that is the case during this last week of excitement.

Thank you, UB Bulls, for a fantastic season. Thank you fans and UB supporters for your efforts as we work to bring big-time college athletics to Western New York. To be sure, this is a great time to be a Bull!

Back in Buffalo

Bulls at postgame press conference

From left: Najja Johnson, Joe Licata, head coach Jeff Quinn, Adam Redden and Branden Oliver answer questions during the postgame press conference.

Published December 22, 2013 at 9:12 AM

“We wouldn't be here today if we didn't have their leadership, their passion and intensity toward football and this great university that we represent.”
Jeff Quinn
Bulls head coach on his team's senior class

The Bulls are back in Buffalo.

The team left from Bronco Stadium moments after UB's 49-24 loss to San Diego State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Buffalo's plane touched down at 5 a.m. exactly. Stampeded buses took the team back to UB North Campus.

In his postgame press conference, Bulls head coach Jeff Quinn spoke highly of his special senior class. "I'm proud of the senior class, what they represented," Quinn told reporters.

"They were the ones four years ago who stood in back and said, hey, we want to get to this point and get our program to where we are today.' We wouldn't be here today if we didn't have their leadership, their passion and intensity toward football and this great university that we represent."

Quinn also thanked the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl for providing the Bulls with such a great experience. "Their committee, their staff and everybody involved, the city of Boise, did an excellent job in the way they treated us. We appreciated that very much." 

Joe Licata passed for 196 yards and three touchdowns. He finished the season with 23 touchdown passes, one shy of the school record of 24 set by Drew Willy in 2008.

Senior Branden Oliver was named the Player of the Game for Buffalo after rushing for 114 yards. It was his 20 career 100-yard game-seven more than any other player in school history. He finished his outstanding career rushing for a school-record 4,049 yards. He is just the 13 player in Mid-American Conference history to rush for over 4,000 yards.

Defensively, the Bulls were led by Adam Redden, who had nine tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

UB finishes the season 8-5. This was only the second bowl appearance in program history. Their first was in the International Bowl played in January 2009.

Scenes from the stadium

Published December 21, 2013 at 7:45 PM

the band

The UB marching band takes the turf at Bronco Stadium.

Fans filing in

Published December 21, 2013 at 6:12 PM

Fans are starting to file into Bronco Stadium and there's been some Buffalo blue spottings. Niagara Fallls native Dave Pisarski, who is here with his daughter Ally, stepped out of the car wearing a Buffalo Bills jacket and hat. He moved to Boise in his early 20s and has been here since.

"I still follow the local college teams and pro teams," Dave said. "We heard about that Khalil Mack, that's he's going to be a high draft choice. I've never had a chance to catch him locally so I'm excited to see him."

"How often does Buffalo play in Boise?!" Ally said. "And we heard there's somebody on the team named Boise. I'm a waitress and one of my customers told me."

Helen Silas is here with her husband Dean Ohren and Boise resident Shannon Landis. Dean's predicting a 35-10 Bulls victory. Helen said the bowl game is a great reward for the players on the team, including her son, Jake, an offensive tackle.

"These kids have worked their entire athletic careers for this event for these guys to have academics and athleticism they're an incredible group of young men," she said.

We're here!

Bulls supporters cheer as UB football players leave their hotel and head to Bronco Stadium.

Published December 22, 2013

The UB Bulls are at Bronco Stadium. Kickoff is about 90 minutes away. Fans cheered the Bulls on as the players left their hotel and headed for the stadium earlier this afternoon.

Anyone fortunate enough to make the trip out here knows, but Bronco Stadium is a gorgeous facility, with an amazing view of the mountains.

It's game day!

picture of the bus

One of the team buses is loaded with players' gear and ready to head to Bronco Stadium.

Published December 21, 2013 at 4:07 PM

Today's the big day. We're about three hours from kickoff the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at Boise State's Bronco Stadium. The hotel's event center lobby is packed with players and fans in UB blue.

The team's buses will leave for Bronco Stadium at 1 p.m. Today's events include the Idahoan Youth Skills Combine. The ticket office opens at 10 a.m., followed by the Corporate Tent Village at 12:30 p.m.

The Battle of the Bands, featuring the marching bands from both universities, starts at 2 p.m. Stadium gates also open at 2, and the players will take the field at 3. Kickoff is 3:30 and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Today's Idaho Statesman ran a big feature on Buffalo's Khalil Mack.

Check back for more posts from Bronco Stadium.

Buffalo sees home advantage in Boise's blue turf

players on Boise State's blue turf field

The Bulls conduct a walk-through Friday afternoon on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium.

Published December 20, 2013 at 7:45 PM

They may be 2,200 miles away from Buffalo, but the UB Bulls got a little slice of home this afternoon at Bronco Stadium.

Snowflakes began to fall as the Bulls stepped onto the famed Boise State blue turf field. The Bulls even took the blue turf—which nearly matches their uniforms—as a good sign.

“It feels like a little home advantage with blue turf and the weather around here,” Maxwell Perisse, a redshirt freshman from Downington, Pa., said after the team’s walk-through. “I thought it was real neat. It’s going to be a fun experience playing on it tomorrow.”

“This is the only place you’re gonna get that chance to do it—it’s the only field that’s blue. It’s definitely different,” added junior Jake Stockman.

“It makes us feel at home out here—Buffalo blue. It’s definitely darker than what film showed it to be. But it’s just like [our field] at home. It’s hard because it’s cold, and it’s turf, so it’s perfect. It was just like home,” he said.

One person isn’t such a huge fan of the blue turf, and that’s San Diego State head coach Rocky Long. Back in 2011, when Boise State was readying to join the Mountain West Conference, Long told reporters, “I think they ought to get rid of that blue turf. I think it’s unfair.”

In response, the conference banned the Broncos from wearing their all-blue uniforms on the field. For the record, the Bulls are the visiting team for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and will wear their white jerseys.

How exactly is Boise pronounced?

This YouTube video explains how to pronounce Idaho's capital city.

Published December 20, 2013 at 4:58 PM

For all the Buffalo Bulls fans arriving in Boise for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, there's something very important to know: Boise, Idaho's capital city, is pronounced like boy-see, not with a "z" as it's commonly pronounced back East.

Bulls' biggest booster arrives

Published December 20, 2013 at 4:26 PM

“The university got me where I wanted to be, and that’s why I want to give back.”
Ronald Balter
1980 UB graduate

The Buffalo Bulls’ biggest booster is in Boise. Ronald Balter arrived earlier today and is ready to watch UB win its first-ever bowl game. Balter’s Twitter handle—UBBulls1—tells you just how big he is on the Bulls. But if that’s not enough, he also has an equipment room named after him in UB Stadium.

A 1980 graduate of UB, Balter was an equipment manager for the football team during his undergraduate years. You might say he hasn’t left UB football since.

“The university got me where I wanted to be, and that’s why I want to give back,” says Balter, an attorney in New York City. “I started with the program as a student manager in ’77, five years ago I went to Toronto [for the International Bowl], I’m here in Boise now and hopefully someplace else for another bowl game next year.”

Balter wasn’t going to allow some difficulty traveling affect his ability to attend tomorrow’s game against San Diego State. Balter’s flight to Boise on Thursday got diverted to Salt Lake City and he drove four hours up to Boise—without his luggage.

Balter said he’s excited for the steady progress the Bulls have made in recent seasons, and hopes not only that such progress continues, but that the elevated profile of UB athletics helps to bring greater exposure to the University at Buffalo as a whole. “If it gets the school’s name out there, gets more people to apply and builds more alumni pride—that’s good for all,” he says.

While Balter is happy to be in Boise for the bowl game, this weekend has presented a small dilemma for him. The Bulls men’s basketball team is playing in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center Saturday afternoon. You can bet Balter would have gone to that game; he’s just a short walk from the arena. “They scheduled that game last spring and when I looked at the calendar I said, Dec. 21—that’s bowl season. That could be a problem.”

But Balter is here in his Bulls gear, hoping to witness an historic occasion for UB football.

Bulls brighten patients' day in local hospital visit

UB player greets patient

UB senior Alex Neutz shakes hands with a patient during the Bulls visit to a Boise hospital Friday morning. Photo: Xavier Riley

Published December 20, 2013 at 4:41 PM

A University at Buffalo contingent brightened the day for patients at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center during a visit to the hospital in downtown Boise earlier today.

A handful of football players, along with head coach Jeff Quinn, cheerleaders and Bulls mascot Victor E. Bull, talked with patients for about an hour. One patient in particular made a big impact on the players.

“The most special moment for me was meeting a 19-year-old kid, his name was Rez. He was in the Air Force and got injured. His parents were there, too. It was nice to talk to him about sports. We were talking to him about the Miami Heat and LeBron James. That really made my day,” said Alex Neutz, a senior wide receiver from Grand Island, N.Y.

“A lot of people said good luck to us. When they saw us, they cheered right up. It was a great feeling to see the smiles on their faces,” added senior Branden Oliver.

Although it was a short visit for the Bulls, it’s one they’ll carry with them for a long time. “I’ll remember that for the rest of my life,” said junior Jake Stockman. “I got to meet an older man I’d never met before. He walked by and he goes, UB Bulls! He knew who Branden Oliver was. You can’t forget those experiences.”

Added Stockman: “One guy was excited to get home, get on the couch, have a beer and watch some football. For us to remind him of being home and having a good time with his friends and family, that was great for us. It’s pretty rewarding.” 

The Old Idaho Penitentiary: creepy, but beautiful

cheerleaders outside the Old Idaho Penitentiary

Members of the UB Cheerleading team pose outside the historic Old Idaho Penitentiary.

Published December 20, 2013 at 4:51 PM

It’s not all potatoes and football here. A number of Bulls players and cheerleaders spent some time in prison—at the historic Old Idaho Penitentiary, that is—touring and learning about the 100-year-old site.

The penitentiary has proved to be a popular draw among the UB contingent in town.

A group of players visited the historic prison Thursday afternoon. About a dozen members of the UB cheerleading team took a separate trip to the prison, which housed some of the West’s most desperate criminals. The prison was also used as a filming site for the television show Ghost Adventures.

“It looked like a castle. It was oddly beautiful. It was creepy but in a beautiful sort of way. And with the mountains behind it, it was really cool,” said Michaella Hayden, a junior occupational therapy major on the cheerleading squad.

According to the Idaho State Historical Society, the Old Idaho Penitentiary features 30 historic buildings and special exhibitions. The prison was built in 1870 and its first prisoners arrived two years later. The “Old Pen,” as locals know it, closed in 1973.

“There was one cell that was really cool, I took a picture of it. There was a chair in there and there was a painting of a bird in the back corner—it was actually a really good painting,” Hayden said. “It made it even more creepy because the paint was peeling off the ceiling and off the walls. I was very happy that we went.”

The self-guided tour also provided the girls some insight into what people could receive jail time for a century ago. Said Hayden, “It was really interesting because of how historic it is. Learning about how the old jails used to work going back to the 1800s and even seeing what the inmates were in for, stealing cattle and stealing lambs, all the way up to murder. One of the prisoners there actually designed the dining hall. That surprised me.”

Lee wins Humanitarian Award

Fred Lee accepts his award

Buffalo Bulls senior Fred Lee receives the Humanitarian Award from Idaho Potato Bowl Executive Director Kevin McDonald during Thursday's Humanitarian Awards Dinner.

Published December 20, 2013 at 10:12 AM

“It's always an honor to be recognized for the things I do outside of football.”
Fred Lee
Bulls senior wide receiver

Fred Lee, a senior wide receiver known for his good hands on the field and his deeds off of it, was named the University at Buffalo recipient of the Humanitarian Award Thursday evening in the Boise Centre.

The Humanitarian Awards Dinner is held each year as part of the events surrounding the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and dates back to when the game was known as the Humanitarian Bowl.

One recipient from each of the participating Potato Bowl teams is honored with the Humanitarian Award. Paul Pitts III was the San Diego State recipient.

Lee, who hails from Chester, S.C., devotes his time generously in the Buffalo community. His community service has included mentoring at-risk high school kids, volunteering at day care centers, speaking at local schools and reading to kids. In addition, Lee has spent time at the Buffalo veterans hospital and has volunteered with Ronald McDonald House, the Red Cross and the Big Brother/Big Sister program.

Lee said he’s humbled to represent UB. “It’s always an honor to be recognized for the things I do outside of football. That’s where I really pride myself--inspiring other people to be great in life in whatever they decide to do,” Lee said after receiving the award.

His Bulls teammates gave him a standing ovation when his name was called. “It’s a greater feeling than scoring a touchdown and having the whole stadium erupt and cheer, knowing that my teammates really respect me to that level,” Lee said.

Lee credited his mom for instilling in him the values he holds today. “Growing up, my mom was a key factor in my life. I struggled with being bullied and talked about and I was really depressed and sad at times, but she put belief in me that I could believe in myself. Her doing that for me, and now being able to repay that and give it to so many other people, that means a lot to me. I do it just to do it, and I’m happy to be able to represent the University at Buffalo.”

Lee’s community service was also recognized earlier in the season. He was named one of 11 Football Bowl Subdivision members of the Allstate Insurance Company and American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team. It is considered one of the most prestigious off-the-field honors in college sports.

The Humanitarian Awards Dinner also featured a trivia contest pitting the UB and San Diego State defensive lines against each other in a battle of the brains. Buffalo won.

“It was fun. We beat them 4-2,” said Xavier Davis, a freshman defensive lineman from Atlanta. “It was all weird true or false questions, like could you wipe your sunglasses off a potato if it’s freezing.” The answer was “true,” and the Bulls got it correct.

“We know our potatoes,” Davis said.

"Perfect practice Thursday"

Published December 19, 2013 at 8:29 PM

The Bulls wrapped up practice Thursday morning at Boise State's Dona Larsen Park. For the seniors on the team, it was their final practice as members of the University at Buffalo football team.

"Having it be the last day that you're ever gonna wear your college practice jersey, it just makes you think about how fast it's closing down," said defensive lineman Colby Way.

The goal for today's practice was getting everything right in preparation for Saturday's game, said Branden Oliver, the Bulls' record-setting running back. "We tried to have a perfect practice. It was 'perfect practice Thursday,' so we tried to get everything done the right way."

Tomorrow morning, Buffalo will head to Bronco Stadium for a site visit, where they'll check out the blue turf field they'll be playing on Saturday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against San Diego State.

A wave of Bulls fans is expected to arrive in Boise tomorrow as well to help cheer on the Bulls.

Is it ice cream or a baked potato?

picture of the ice cream potato

The Westside Drive-in's ice cream potato: vanilla ice cream rolled in cocoa and cut to look like a baked potato, then topped with whipped cream.

Published December 19, 2013 at 7:15 PM

In his "Insider's Guide to Boise" post on the Go UB Bulls site, UB alum Robert O. Davies highly recommended that bowl game visitors try the "ice cream potato" from the Westside Drive-in.

Not that one would ever doubt the wisdom of a UB alum, but Bob was certainly correct in his characterization of this baked potato-shaped dessert. It's well worth a try.

The ice cream potato is vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cocoa to create the baked potato texture. It's split down the middle and topped not with sour cream and chives, but with whipped cream. All of this rests in a base of hot fudge.

The team hotel also serves up a unique creation using Idaho's signature spud. It's called the Riverside Breakfast Potato: twice-baked potato skins stuffed with scrambled eggs, cheese and diced ham.

And speaking of potatoes, today the Idaho Statesman newspaper ran a cover story on the 12,000-pound "potato" that's been traveling around the country as part of the Famous Idaho Potato Tour. The potato is actually constructed of a steel rib cage, plywood and "Hollywood concrete."

The larger than life spud will be on display at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

The UB football family

child playing

Little Zolie Duval plays in the play room the UB football moms set up for the nearly 20 children on the trip.

Published December 19, 2013 at 2:05 PM

“We all get along, we all love each other, and we help each other out.”
Shannon Quinn
Wife of Bulls head coach Jeff Quinn

Some of the fastest athletes here in Boise for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl just might be the smallest. They’re the children of the numerous UB football coaches, staff and administrators who brought their families along so they could experience the excitement of a bowl game. There are approximately 20 children on the trip, and their moms and dads will tell you these kids can accelerate.

This morning, while the players and coaches are at day two of practice, Shannon Quinn, the wife of Bulls head coach Jeff Quinn, has arranged a craft session and game room for the kids. The hotel opened up one of its conference rooms so the kids could have an open area to burn off some steam, play games and make Christmas ornaments.

"It's nice because it gets the kids all in one room and gives them something fun to do," says Angela Spieler, whose husband Marty is an assistant coach.

UB football is truly a family. You don’t spend several hours a day together half the year without getting to know the people around you pretty well. That's especially true for the UB football females--the wives of the coaching staff.

“We all get along, we all love each other, and we help each other out,” Shannon says, sounding very much like the quarterback of the group. She spearheads events and ensures that her team is on the same page, whether the Bulls are at home or on the road. The group uses social media and texting trees to ensure that all the UB football females know when events are being held.

Some of the more veteran members of the group--"We call ourselves the AARP club members," Shannon says--go out of their way to help out the younger moms on the team, especially the ones with young kids. "It makes it easier on them, and takes the pressure off everybody," Shannon says.

Shannon knows what it's like to be married to a Division I football coach. "Jeff jokes that we've been married 26 years but it feels like 13 because he hasn't been around half the time," she says.

Elizabeth Bittar, a 2000 UB School of Management grad, wanted to make the trip so that her oldest son, Coleman, 3, could take in the experience. The Bittars also have a 5-month-old, Elliot. "We all know each other and the kids look forward to seeing each other," she says. "A lot of the kids have been hanging out in the players' lounge, too."

Potato Bowl swag

Bulls players selecting their prizes

Bulls running back Branden Oliver checks out the prizes in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl gift suite.

Published December 19, 2013 at 6:17 AM

One of the perks of going to a bowl game is receiving a bunch of gear to help remember the occasion by. Each bowl provides a package of swag for the participating teams.

Wednesday evening, Buffalo players were called by class year into a hotel conference room to collect their gear. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl provided players with a package containing jackets, hats, gloves and footballs with the bowl game date and their opponent on them.

"It's rewarding. It's a blessing that we're even here," said Tedroy Lynch, a junior defensive end from Shiremanstown, Pa. "Not everybody gets to make a bowl. You've got people who go through their whole college career and never make one. We're here right now, and the more things we have to remember it by the better."

In addition to the bowl gear, the bowl's corporate sponsors also provided items such as watches and electronics from which the players could choose. While players certainly appreciated those items, they seemed far more enthused by the Potato Bowl gear, which helped put into perspective just how special this moment is for the Bulls.

"It's amazing--the jacket, the gloves--I like it all. I'm gonna wear this stuff every day for the rest of my life, until it breaks, and then I'll be sad that I broke it," said a grinning Dalton Barksdale, a junior defensive lineman from Detroit.

The Bulls return to Dona Larsen Park for practice tomorrow morning. In the evening they'll be attending the Humanitarian Awards.

First practice wraps up

Reporter interviews UB player

Freshman Boise Ross is interviewed by a Boise sports reporter after today's practice.

Published December 19, 2013 at 10:32 AM

The Bulls got down to business this afternoon with their first practice of the week. Practice took place outside at Boise State's Dona Larsen Park, where it felt a bit chillier than the 25-degree thermometer reading.

Still, UB players didn't seem to mind the frosty field conditions, but of course that's not surprising for a team from Buffalo. San Diego State practiced earlier in the day and may have had a tougher time, given the conditions.

Bulls coach Jeff Quinn seemed pretty happy with today's practice. He told UBBulls.com that he liked how the guys responded in their first practice.

 A Boise-based sports reporter was particularly interested in interviewing Boise Ross, a freshman wide receiver from Bethlehem, Pa.

Life in the fast lane

UB players riding in go karts

The UB Bulls spent a few hours at an indoor go-kart track earlier today.

Published December 19, 2013 at 12:25 AM

It's Day 2 in Boise and this morning 40-yard dash times didn't matter for the University at Buffalo football team. The Bulls donned helmets of a different kind and spent a few hours at Fast Lane Indoor Kart Racing. Players had the opportunity to race each other in heats of 10 competitors. Even the coaches got in on the action.

Trevor Sales, a junior offensive lineman from La Porte, Ind., clearly enjoyed his time at the track. Sporting a Fast Lane-provided racing suit, Sales zipped past his teammates to win his heat. 

"Having a chance to go on those karts--they were fast as heck. It brings a little competitive spirit to the whole thing when you're racing the guys," Sales said after getting a printout of his race results. "I got first place. I think my dad would be upset if I didn't. I had to hold it down for the family name."

Fast Lane also has foosball and pool tables, in addition to some arcade games; players were also treated to lunch before heading back to the team hotel.

The team's first practice of the week is this afternoon. They'll change into practice gear at Bronco Stadium, where they'll be playing Saturday, and then head over to Dona Larsen Park, which opened in 2012 and is home to Boise State's softball and track and field programs.

Bulls bowl for charity

Bulls players watching bowling event

UB Bulls players Matt Weiser (89) and Najja Johnson (22) watch teammates bowl in the Strikes for Spuds bowling event Tuesday at Wahooz Family Fun Zone in Boise.

Published December 18, 2013 at 11:29 PM

After checking in at the team hotel, the Bulls boarded buses to Wahooz Family Fun Zone for the Strikes for Spuds charity bowling event.

The event featured starters from both UB and their Famous Idaho Potato Bowl opponent San Diego State. Teams bowled for a local Boise charity and one from their hometown. The Bulls' efforts supported St. Luke's Mission of Mercy in Buffalo and Boise-based Life's Kitchen.

All told, the teams will donate 1,700 pounds of potatoes to the four charities.

"I got a strike. I was pretty jacked about that," says Jake Stockman, a redshirt junior linebacker from Joliet, Ill. The Aztecs proved to be the better bowlers, though, edging the Bulls 241 to 216.

Boise sports radio station 93.1 The Ticket broadcast from the event, interviewing Bulls coach Jeff Quinn, who was also interviewed by local television station KBOI-TV.

Afterward, the Bulls enjoyed a team meal at the family entertainment complex (no word on whether they ran out of food!) and played arcade games before heading back to the hotel for team meetings.

All in all, it was a good first day, Stockman says. "Above and beyond any traveling experience I've had."

Stockman and his teammates have been wowed by the hospitality they've received. "Getting a state trooper escort on the highway to the hotel, having a marching band greet us at the hotel, it's just been awesome," he said while winding down in the hotel game room. "You can already tell the entire community cares about this game."

Wednesday's events include a winter sports activity in the morning and their first practice of the week.

The Bulls have landed

Bulls football players de-boarding plane.

Published December 19, 2013

The Bulls have landed in Boise! The team's charter flight out of Buffalo touched down at Boise Airport at 12:47 p.m. Mountain Time to cheers and applause from everyone on board. Upon exiting the plane, passengers were greeted by reps from the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, who shook hands and said, "Welcome to Boise!"

Bulls board the plane

UB Bulls football team are Boise Bound.

Published December 17, 2013

The Bulls board the plane bound for Boise. Today's activities include the Strikes for Spuds event.

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