The Bulls need to start winning for Buffalo

The Spectrum

I learned something Friday night.

No, not that Baylor is very fast. I knew that. Anybody who’s watched Baylor for five minutes over the past two seasons knew that.

No, not that Bryce Petty can light up a stat sheet. He’s a Heisman candidate for a reason.

And no, not that Buffalo is lightyears behind Baylor. This is a useless comparison.

But I learned that UB Stadium could actually fill up. My question is, how long will it last?

Baylor defeated Buffalo – a much better Buffalo team in that – 70-13 last season. It’s safe to say nobody in the stadium came to Friday’s game thinking Buffalo would, or even could, actually win.

Still, students came. Still, 24,714 paid attendees came. Still, ESPN came.

I’m not going to waste my time, or yours, talking about how Buffalo was overmatched. We knew this coming into the game. Baylor is the No. 8 team in the country for a reason. What I wasn’t quite sure about was the community reaction.

It was a cold evening. Certainly not ‘Buffalo cold,’ but it wasn’t how you want your Sept. 12 evening to feel. It was cold enough to make the excuse to stay indoors and watch the game on ESPN – the “mother ship,” according to head coach Jeff Quinn.

But that didn’t happen.

The “blackout” worked. The crowd showed its impact in the opening drive. Baylor was forced to call two timeouts on this possession. Yes, the drive resulted in a Bears touchdown – because, breaking news, Baylor is a much better football team than UB – but those timeouts could have cost Baylor a touchdown opportunity later in the half.

“The fans brought a lot of energy and we as players certainly appreciate that,” said junior quarterback Joe Licata.

I’ve never seen UB Stadium so filled. The stadium quickly emptied at halftime, probably because nothing kills a buzz faster than a 35-point deficit.

Whether it’s the rebranding efforts, Tailgate Concert Series or just a carry over effect from last season’s success, something has changed to get fans into the stadium.

Now, will this attendance rate continue into conference play and games that the crowd can actually impact a winnable game?

Well, that’s up to the Bulls.

When will the Bulls give fans reasons to keep showing up?

The Bulls have under performed in all three games. Friday’s game was the only one all season where Buffalo performed as many expected. The game could have been much worse – just ask last year’s senior class.

But it’s still a 63-21 loss. As Quinn said postgame, “It’s hard to look past that.”

Yes, Jeff. And it’s increasingly difficult week after week and year after year.

To create a “big-time athletics program” you need both the players and the fans to produce. It appears the fans are doing their part. Now it’s up to the ones inside the white lines to do the same.

And Licata knows it.

“We know we have to win for those fans,” Licata said.

Otherwise, students will find other ways to spend their Fridays and Saturdays. Western New Yorkers will find other ways to spend their money. With what I’ve seen at times this season, it’s not very difficult to find a better activity.

Next week is the final opportunity before Mid-American Conference play commences. Buffalo has another game against an FCS school, but FCS schools have given UB problems for unexplainable reasons the past two seasons.

There are no more excuses. If I have to hear the phrases “I'm proud of how our kids fought back” or “Those guys in that locker room never gave up” out of Quinn’s mouth one more time, it will just show how he hasn't learned from his mistakes.

Buffalo fans deserve better. Buffalo students deserve better.

It’s time for the Bulls to step up. Otherwise, they will be playing in front of an empty stadium again very soon. And they will have no one to blame but themselves.