Sunday, September 19, 1999

It's Bearcats in a shocker


UC holds on for win over No. 9 Wisconsin

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[fans]
Fans and players stand in the center of Nippert Stadium after UC's victory.
(Ernest Coleman photo)

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        Cincinnati Bearcats safety DeJuan Gossett knew the ball was coming his way. He just didn't know when, and he wished it could be soon. The suspense had lingered long enough.

        “It just seemed like he held the ball forever,” Gossett said. “I just wanted it to be over, out of his hands, and the game to be over with.”

        Wisconsin quarterback Scott Kavanaugh released the ball eventually, and Gossett saw the pass sail beyond Badgers wideout Nick Davis in the general direction of the UC students plotting an assault on Nippert Stadium's south end zone goalpost. The nation's No.9 college football team was out of time, out of plays, out of chances. UC owned its first victory over a ranked team in more than 20 years and possibly its first-ever over a Top 10 team, 17-12.

        “Is this an upset? Well, we're not upset,” said UC coach Rick Minter, whose team was a 26-point underdog. “You'd have to ask someone else if it's an upset.”

[cooper]
UC running back Robert Cooper carries the ball.
(Ernest Coleman photo)

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        The Bearcats (2-1) grabbed a 7-3 lead with 44 minutes, 51 seconds remaining on a 51-yard touchdown run by senior tailback Robert Cooper, then maintained that advantage even while Wisconsin three times crossed the goal line with the ball in hand and once came within a yard of getting there.

        Although the Badgers (2-1) held the ball for 15 more minutes, gained 164 more yards, produced nine more first downs and drew 231 rushing yards from All-America tailback Ron Dayne, who played part-time because of an ankle injury, they left town with a defeat they could not have conceived.

        The last few schools to defeat the Badgers were named Michigan, Georgia, Penn State. But UC?

        “Maybe subconsciously they were looking ahead,” Alvarez said of the Badgers, who face Michigan and Ohio State in their next two games. “We're normally a mistake-free team that doesn't beat itself. We hurt ourselves with untimely penalties, dropped passes.”

[bearcats]
UC's Deontey Kenner (7) and P.J. Mays celebrate UC's upset win.
(Ernest Coleman photo)

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        The Bearcats carried a five-point lead into the final five minutes as the result of a sequence that nearly ruined their extraordinary afternoon:

        • With UC ahead 14-12, star safety Tinker Keck nearly intercepted a third-down pass and forced a Wisconsin punt. He made the risky decision to field that kick inside the UC 10, then had it bounce off his facemask and onto the turf. Wisconsin's Ryan Marks collected the ball and dashed into the end zone, but the rules do not permit a muffed punt to be advanced.

        • On the Badgers' second play, Dayne carried from the 10 to the 2, but UC corner Bobby Fuller punched the ball loose, and teammate Jeff Burrow recovered in the end zone.

        • After UC fell a yard short of a first down, punter Adam Wulfeck nailed one 44 yards to the UW 27. Badgers returner Davis bobbled the ball and was smacked LaVar Glover, who knocked a fumble loose for Bearcats senior Carlton Sykes to recover.

        • Three plays produced no yards for UC, but freshman Jonathon Ruffin kicked a 41-yard field goal with 5:01 left.

        UC survived all the decisive events that typically foil teams seeking wins this improbable. The most obvious came in the second quarter, when officials awarded Wisconsin a first down after Davis bobbled a pass beyond the marker and did not gain possession until he'd been tackled three yards short.

        Dayne dashed for 29 yards on the next play, and the Bad gers kept going until they landed at the UC 1.

        On second-and-goal, Dayne took a handoff and wrongly figured he'd stop somewhere in the end zone. Instead, he was leveled by cornerback Ivan Fields for a loss of a yard. Wisconsin settled for a 20-yard field goal from Vitaly Pisetsky and a 7-6 deficit.

        UC made it 14-6 in the third quarter with its one long scoring drive, which ended with a 5-yard run by Deontey Kenner on a quarterback draw. The Bearcats allowed the Badgers to answer with a 96-yard drive, but Keck swatted down a two-point conversion pass.

        Wisconsin had its own tough calls. An illegal block wiped out a long punt-return touchdown by Davis. On the final series, the Badgers thought they completed a game-winning touch down pass to wideout Lee Evans. An illegal motion call nullified that play and set Wisconsin back five yards.

        It was five yards farther for Kavanaugh to throw on that final pass, but height turned out to be more of a problem than distance.

        “It was just amazingly loud,” Gossett said. “I haven't heard it that loud here since I've been here. All that hard work paid off, and there was a whole lot of celebrating to do.”

       



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