Saturday, September 25, 1999

Upset encore for UC?


OSU may be too tough to handle

BY SCOTT MacGREGOR
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        At least they made the pregame hype interesting.

        A week ago, the matchup between Ohio State and Cincinnati looked like another unbalanced laugher. Then UC upset then No.8 Wisconsin, and suddenly the Buckeyes and their fans had to start taking the Bearcats seriously.

        That could end sometime after today's 12:10 p.m. kickoff at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. No.12-ranked Ohio State will likely be too talented, too deep, too fast and too strong for the Bearcats to pull another upset, especially if the Buckeyes don't sleep through the first half as they did last week, trailing 10-3 before beating Ohio University 40-16.

        But UC (2-1) earned respect, and deserves it. And if the Buckeyes (2-1) want to take the Bearcats lightly — as they admitted they took Ohio's Bobcats — they'll have a fight on their hands.

        “They did us a favor,” Ohio State coach John Cooper said. “We don't know if they'll play as good against us as they did against Wisconsin. But I can tell you we'll take their best shot.”

        “A smart football team wouldn't take us lightly,” Cincinnati quarterback Deontey Kenner said. “I was surprised Wisconsin took us the way they did. They weren't as prepared as they should have been. I don't think Ohio State will be like that.”

        The Buckeyes were on guard this week, talking the respect game. But even if UC plays better this week than it did in the shocker, OSU probably has more weapons than the Bearcats can handle.

        “What (beating Wisconsin) did, it made believers out of them,” Ohio State offensive tackle Tyson Walter said. “I'm not sure about their mental state before that game, but now that they beat Wisconsin, they've got confidence they can hang with the Big Ten. That makes them a dangerous team.”

        Against Wisconsin, the Bearcats loaded as many as 10 men on the line of scrimmage to stop the running game because the Badgers don't have

        much of a passing attack. They can't do that against Ohio State, unless they want to see confident quarterback Steve Bellisari and speedy receiver Ken-Yon Rambo hook up.

        Then there's tailback Michael Wiley, who, despite inconsistent blocking from his offensive line, has broken big runs in all three games this season.

        “There's a couple more weapons,” said UC linebacker DeJuan Gossett. “A lot of fast weapons. We're going to have to do our responsibilities, come together as a group and keep down the big plays.”

        Offensively, UC must hope for another big game from senior tailback Robert Cooper, who ran 20 times for 143 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown, against Wisconsin. Ohio State has been susceptible to the run in two of its three games, although when the defense did clamp down last week, it shut down Ohio easily.

        The Bucks may blitz often, believing their pressure can be stifling and cause turnovers. And UC has no receivers up to the challenge of Ohio State cornerbacks Ahmed Plummer and Nate Clements.

        It's the first time the schools have met since 1931, and the first experience the Bearcats will have playing in front of a crowd as big as the 94,000 that will fill the Horseshoe. The Bearcats also will be playing their first road game this season.

        “We've been in a comfort zone as a young team,” UC coach Rick Minter said. “We are about to enter the jungle. Their fans are going to be juiced to make sure their guys answer the bell. They had their wake-up call against Ohio U.”

        The Bearcats may get theirs today.

        “We could get beat by 50 this week and everybody would say, "Well, I told you you were a flash in the pan,'” Minter said. “But for that moment in time Saturday night, we battled hard on our home court and we held serve and got us a ballgame.”

        Said Kenner: “They're Big Ten, nationally ranked. We're not. We went against all that last week. We overcame it, and we can do it again.”

        Maybe not. But it will be interesting.

        (The Enquirer's Mike DeCourcy contributed to this story.)

       



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