BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The UB Bulls opened a new football season with a strong first half at Wisconsin. The No. 19-ranked team in the nation asserted itself in the third quarter on its way to a 38-17 victory.
Wisconsin running backs Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi combined to rush for 298 yards and four touchdowns. And the Badgers benefitted from a home crowd of more than 80,000, on the hottest game day (91 degrees) in history at Camp Randall Stadium.
UB was tied at 7-7 after the first quarter and went into halftime trailing 14-10. The Bulls were out-gained by 40 yards in the first half, and could’ve been closer on the scoreboard if not for a missed field goal.
Considering the ranked opposition and even matchup for a half, the 21-point loss marked a bit of improvement for the Bulls from last season’s 31-10 opening defeat at Maryland, and a 28-3 loss at Nebraska in 2021, the first season under coach Maurice Linguist.
UB dropped to 1-14 all-time against ranked teams, and 1-12 when taking on Big Ten opponents.
The Bulls, looking to contend in the Mid-American Conference after finishing 7-6 and winning the Camellia Bowl in 2022, open their home schedule next Saturday night against FCS foe Fordham. The non-conference slate also includes a matchup with Liberty at UB Stadium on Sept. 16, and a Sept. 23 trip to Louisiana.
Cole Snyder, the Lake View native in his second season starting at quarterback for the Bulls, was 26 of 41 passing for 194 yards, with completions to 12 different receivers, and a pair of touchdown passes to Cole Harrity.
Shaun Dolac, UB’s all-conference linebacker from West Seneca, made eight tackles and had his first career interception, setting up Harrity’s second score, which made it 31-17 midway through the fourth quarter. Marcus Fuqua, a third-team AP All-American at safety last season, led the Bulls with nine tackles. Devin Grant also had an interception, as the Bulls won the turnover battle, committing none on offense.
Alex McNulty made a 53-yard field goal before halftime after missing from 34 yards following Grant’s interception return to the red zone.
Mike Washington led the Bulls with 52 yards rushing, and Ron Cook had 51. Both carried 12 times. Harrity caught five passes for 47 yards. Darrell Harding, a transfer from Duke, had a 51-yard reception before Harrity’s touchdown in the first quarter.
Luke Fickell coached his first regular-season game since joining the Badgers after six seasons at Cincinnati. He was with Wisconsin for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl victory over Oklahoma State last season.
Mellusi, a Clemson transfer who came to Wisconsin in 2021, had an 89-yard touchdown run in which he navigated through the defense to make it 21-10 in the third quarter. He finished with a career-best 157 yards on 13 carries. Allen had 14 rushes, and caught seven passes for 25 yards. His 37-yard touchdown run extended the lead to 28-10 in the third. Melusi had a 1-yard TD run to put the Badgers on the board first in the first quarter.
UB scored less than two minutes later when Cole Harrity caught a 7-yard pass from Cole Snyder.
The Badgers had 101 yards rushing in the first half but found their footing on the ground in the third with 150 yards in the quarter. Chimere Dike caught a 29-yard touchdown pass that gave Wisconsin a 14-7 lead with a minute to go in the first half.
Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.