AMHERST, N.Y. – Memories from the last time Ball State and Buffalo took the field together remain fresh for those associated with the Cardinals. None of them are good, however.
The Cardinals and Bulls last played in the 2008 Mid-American Conference Championship Game. It was supposed to be Ball State's 13th consecutive victory, the one that would bring a MAC title back to Muncie and maybe even catapult it into the top-10.
Instead, it was a disaster. The Cardinals were upset 42-24 at Ford Field in Detroit. Back-to-back fumbles in the red zone doomed Ball State and the dream season was dashed.
Two years later, neither team is competing for a conference title, or will even finish this season with a winning record. The two head coaches from the MAC Championship game are gone, as are most of the players.
But for the Cardinals that do remain, Friday's game at Buffalo at 6 p.m. on ESPNU means more than just a late November game between two teams with a combined 5-14 record.
"That loss really hurt us because we felt like we could win that game," safety Josh Howard said. "It's big for us to win this week. It's very important and we want to win it too."
Howard said when the Cardinals broke down into their player-only meetings by position this week, he and fellow veteran safeties Derrick Henry, Kyle Hoke and Sean Baker told the players who weren't on the team in 2008 what beating Buffalo would mean.
"We explained this is a personal game," he said. "A lot of us from '08 remember the taste in our mouth we had when we were leaving Ford Field and the complete shock. We wanted to win it so bad. We've got another opportunity so we need to take advantage of it this time."
But senior running back and captain MiQuale Lewis said that isn't the attitude the whole team is taking. Lewis said Buffalo is just another team Ball State wants to beat, no different than any other week.
"No one really in the whole building has talked about '08 because this is 2010," he said. "They're a different team and we're a different team."
The Bulls offense will look a lot different Friday than it did in 2008. New coach Jeff Quinn has installed more of a spread offense. Despite Quinn's past running Brian Kelly's wildly-successful offenses at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, he has changed it somewhat.
"He's doing it more like Eastern [Michigan] and Western [Michigan]," coach Stan Parrish said. "Running the quarterback a lot and getting a running game going. We've been very susceptible to the run. Every game is a tossup."