Bengals bang on the gong all game


Francis Boeck, Managing/Sports Editor

Much hype has been made about the Miami Hurricanes’ “Turnover Chain” or Boise State’s “Turnover Thone” this year.

But the SUNY Buffalo State Football team has been celebrating their takeaways in style for nearly a decade.

After every turnover, the Bengals pounce on a four-foot gong that sits on the Bengals’ sideline roughly around the 30-yard line. Someone gives the hard mallet to the defender who gained the football and the player winds up and hits the gong with all his energy to celebrate his accomplishment and Buffalo State getting the ball back.

In Saturday’s 41-7 Homecoming win over Hartwick, the Bengals defense banged the gong five times, nearly doubling their total from the first three games.

“We’re young on defense,” Buffalo State defensive coordinator Terry Bitka said. “We have guys in diapers basically from an experience standpoint. We really only have two guys with game experience. They’re learning on the fly, part of that learning experience is failing along the way. We buttoned things up today.”

Bitka got the idea one summer while sitting in a bar watching how the bartenders and servers would ring a bell every time they were given a tip.

He then worked to find a gong that would help get the defense just as excited about getting turnovers. About halfway through the following season, he finally secured one from the Music Department.

The gong proved to be an immediate success, being used several times in a road win over Ithaca.

“Seven or eight years ago we were playing down at Ithaca College,” Bitka said. “We broke it out on a Friday about three or four games into the season. The kids went nuts at the meeting the day before and we had five or six turnovers and two pick-sixes. I got interviewed after the game and said, ‘I should have had a gong a long time ago.’”

Ever since the gong has remained on the sidelines even going on the road with the Bengals, much to the chagrin of their opponents.

“We go into other people’s stadiums with it and they’re not too happy about,” Bitka says. “But we don’t care.”

Junior Darren Wesley got to hit the gone twice Saturday with a pair of interceptions, the second set up a 22-yard touchdown by Tony Maple early in the fourth quarter.

“For us that gong means everything,” Wesley said. “That’s what we strive to get. It gives us a confidence boost as a team. It helps us stay unified. It’s an amazing feeling (to hit the gong).”