Sunday, October 10, 1999

HOUSTON 23, UC 20


Bearcats slip to 0-for-4 in C-USA openers

BY JOHN SULLIVAN
Enquirer contributor

[mays]
P.J. Mays makes a short gain.
(AP photos)

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        HOUSTON — Another Conference USA opener, another tough loss for the University of Cincinnati.

        Houston broke a 20-20 tie with five seconds left in regulation to claim a 23-20 win over Cincinnati in the Bearcats' Conference USA opener Saturday. It was the fourth straight time UC has opened C-USA play with a loss. UC has never won a C-USA opner.

        “The game is played with a lot of emotion,” Cincinnati junior quarterback Deontey Kenner explained after a solid individual performance that included passing for 260 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “Emotion and momentum can be a 12th man on the field out there. Give Houston credit. They had it when they needed it at home today.”

        Cincinnati looked to have it late in the fourth quarter. Trailing 20-14, Kenner found freshman wide receiver P.J. Mays wide open down field and Mays coasted in for a 59-yard score. The touchdown tied the game at 20 and all UC neeed to do was kick the extra point for its first lead of the day with just over six minutes remaining.

        Jon Ruffin's attempt, however, was blocked and the game remained deadlocked.

[thomas]
Isaac Thomas recovers a Houston fumble.

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        “I don't think you should ever have a kick blocked,” UC coach Rick Minter said. “That proved to be just huge. We have a lot of young players starting and on special teams and our execution could have been a little sharper at times. If we have the lead, we could have played the last six minutes a little differently.”

        Another play also changed UC's strategy.

        “We also had a nice interception late, but Bobby (Fuller) was ruled down at the one instead of the end zone,” Minter added. “That would have given us a touchback at 20 and, again, we could have done things a little differently from there. Those are some big plays, but the fact is we didn't run the ball in the first half like we needed to. You're going to have a hard time winning if you can't run the ball the way you need to.”

        Deep in their own territory late in the fourth, Kenner then had a pass over the middle deflected by Houston lineman Mike Knepper. The ball shot straight-up and was pulled down by linebacker Sam Hairston at the Bearcat 17. Five plays later, UH kicker Mike Clark converted on a 28-yard game-winning field goal.

        The game ended when the ensuing kickoff to the goal line was returned to the five with no time left.

[fuller]
Bobby Fuller makes a tackle.

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        With 432 yards of total offense on 72 plays, the Cougars had the momentum plenty of times as well as at the end of the game.

        Houston got on the board first with a 9-yard touchdown run by Ketric Sanford. Cincinnati had not given up a touchdown in the first quarter all season and should have at been credited with keeping that streak alive.

        Sanford took the handoff after time expired and his 20th career rushing touchdown capped a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive that ate up four and a half minutes off the clock.

        Sanford set up the next score of the game early in the third quarter with the help of some trickery. With a second-and-7 situation from the Cincinnati 46, Sanford ran right for what looked like would have been his 15th carry. The senior however pulled up and completed a 45-yard halfback pass to true freshman Brandon Middleton that gave Houston a first-and-goal at the 1.

        Sophomore running back Leif Penn scored on the next play to give UH a 14-0 lead.

        The Bearcats came right back on their next possession with a quick scoring drive that cut the margin to 14-7. On a third-and-7 from their own 42, Kenner found LaDarius Vann for a 58-yard scoring strike.

        Two series later, Bearcat senior cornerback Jeff Burrow then tied the game with a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown.

        Momentum had swung to UC, but early in the fourth Sanford scored his second touchdown of the game on an 11-yard run to put Houston back in front 20-14.

        Cougar kicker Mike Clark however missed his PAT so the door was open until Ruffin's kick was blocked.

        With 260 yards on 17 completions, Deontey Kenner jumped ahead of three players on the Bearcats' all-time passing yards list. He has 3,332 career passing yards to rank 7th on UC's all-time passing list, moving ahead of Chad Plummer.

        After starting his collegiate career on a roll, Ruffin, a true freshman, had a rough day in Houston. Ruffin had made four of five field goals, but he missed first half field goals of 32 and 49 before the blocked extra points Saturday.

        Cincinnati ....... 0 0 14 6—20  

        Houston ....... 7 0 7 9—23  

        First Quarter

        Hou—Sanford 9 run (Clark kick), 0:00.

        Third Quarter

        Hou—Penn 1 run (Clark kick), 11:52.

        Cin—Vann 58 pass from Kenner (Ruffin kick), 9:36.

        Cin—Burrow 25 interception return (Ruffin kick), 8:39.

        Fourth Quarter

        Hou—Sanford 11 run (kick failed), 10:21.

        Cin—Mays 59 pass from Kenner (kick blocked), 6:21.

        Hou—FG Clark 18, 0:05.

        A—22,315.

         Cin   Hou  

        First downs ....... 15   22  

        Rushes-yards ....... 27-74   48-238  

        Passing ....... 260   194  

        Comp-Att-Int ....... 17-31-2  13-24-3  

        Return Yards ....... 49  

        6   Punts-Avg. ....... 5-37.2   4-40.5  

        Fumbles-Lost ....... 0-0   0-0  

        Penalties-Yards ....... 5-65   6-57  

        Time of Possession ....... 26:29   33:31  

        INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

        RUSHING—Cincinnati, Cooper 20-63, Wize 1-18, Garden 1-3, Mays 1-0, Kenner 4-(-10). Houston, Sanford 27-134, Penn 18-96, McKinley 3-8.

        PASSING—Cincinnati, Kenner 17-31-2-260. Houston, McKinley 12-23-3149, Sanford 1-1-0-45.

        RECEIVING—Cincinnati, Vann 6-111, Smikle 5-32, Mays 2-90, Collins-Baker 2-15, Hunt 1-11, Cooper 1-1. Houston, Iglesias 4-36, Middleton 2-77, Regimbald 2-29, Sanford 2-0, Pritchett 1-22, Hill 1-20, Penn 1-10.

       



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