AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — UB Stadium roared with anticipation this week. The rumble of a crowd far bigger than capacity and a haunting hip-hop anthem prepared the Bulls to begin a new season in a venue where few like Buffalo have ever come to win.
Speakers blared artificial cheers to help prepare the Bulls for the auditory challenge of 80,000-strong Camp Randall Stadium when Buffalo visits No. 19 Wisconsin on Saturday (3:30 p.m., FS1). Further setting the mood, House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” the Badgers’ bouncing hype song, has been in heavy rotation since UB broke training camp and started game preparation.
“I don’t know if they know the artist yet, but they know the song,” coach Maurice Linguist said. “We’ve shown them the videos. We let them see that it’s a great atmosphere.”
The 1992 hit has amplified the atmosphere at UB’s practices, safety Marcus Fuqua said.
“It just builds more excitement, more anticipation,” said Fuqua, a third-team AP All-American for the Bulls last season. “It makes us want to play harder. That’s their song, we want to make it our song.”
Saturday’s season opener will be the ninth game that UB plays in a venue seating 80,000 or more, and the second trip to Wisconsin following a 35-3 loss in 2006, the first season for coach Turner Gill. It will be the biggest crowd many of the Bulls have witnessed to date. UB played in front of 85,663 people in a 28-3 loss at Nebraska in 2021, Linguist’s first season, but only a handful of players remain from that travel roster.
“Not many people get a chance in an atmosphere like that one, so whenever you do, that’s a great opportunity,” said UB quarterback Cole Snyder, the Western New York native who visited a number of big stadiums during his time playing for Rutgers.
In their first season under new coach Luke Fickell, the Badgers are favored by four touchdowns against a UB team that returns 11 starters after finishing 7-6 and winning the Camellia Bowl in Linguist’s second year on the job.
The Bulls have never won a game like this before. UB is 1-11 all-time against Big Ten opponents, with the lone victory in 2018 against a Rutgers team that went 1-11. The Bulls are 1-14 against ranked teams, having only beaten Ball State in the Mid-American Conference championship game in 2008.
Wisconsin is 39-2 all-time against MAC teams and hasn’t lost a home opener against a non-conference opponent since 1995.
UB will receive a $1.3 million payment for Saturday’s game, win or lose. The platform to compete against one of college football’s very best programs is a bonus with unmeasurable value.
“It’s a real big opportunity,” said Cam Lewis, the Buffalo Bills cornerback who played at UB from 2015-18. “What I remember from those games is being super excited. You feel like personally you should be at those Power 5 schools. Sometimes those Power 5 guys take what they have for granted. So you want to personally show out. Put your best foot forward, play four good, hard quarters, and you’ve got a chance.
“You’re going to be nervous,” Lewis continued. “But nerves are a part of it. It’s different from the MAC, when we’re lucky to get crowds of 20K. But if you ignore the noise and focus on what you have to do, you should be good.”
Linguist, who has never coached in a game at Camp Randall before but was an assistant in the Big Ten, SEC and NFL before arriving at UB, understands the noise will be difficult to block out once fans fill the stadium and play begins.
“It’s a real thing when that volume goes up,” Linguist said. “Cadence, mechanics, and how you are going to operate is key. Their fans are well-schooled. They know when to get loud, and when to be quiet. That’s going to be a big piece of the game, handling the noise.”
Snyder concluded, “what I try to tell the younger players, and coach Linguist is saying this all the time: you can’t let any outside noises — literally noises in this case — alter your focus,” he said. “A lot of times people can get overwhelmed in the moment. And you just have to go back to, what’s my job on this play? And it’s one play at a time.”
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.