Tuesday, September 05, 2000

UC 23, Army 17


Running game comes alive in second half

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Ray Jackson
(Gary Landers photos)
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        Everybody knew going into the University of Cincinnati's season-opening football game that anything less than a victory would be a disaster.

        Disaster averted.

        Cincinnati beat Army 23-17 before 23,311 fans at Nippert Stadium and a national TV audience on Labor Day.

        After a sluggish first half, UC's offensive line began opening holes and Ray Jackson (26 carries for 108 yards) and DeMarco McCleskey (19 carries for 90 yards) began blasting through them.

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DeMarco McCleskey
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        The best thing to say about the Bearcats (1-0, 1-0 Conference USA) is they made plays on offense when they had to. The next-to-last scoring drive — 78 yards in nine plays — was clutch. UC quarterback Deontey Kenner's 12-yard touchdown pass to wideout Jason Collins-Baker pulled the 'Cats ahead 20-17 with 6:11 to go.

        “I knew right there the game belonged to us,” said Collins-Baker, who danced some kind of Funky Chicken on the sidelines afterwards. “I wanted to express it the best way I could, even though I'm not much of a dancer.”

        And the Bearcats made defensive stops when they had to. After UC answered Army's second-half opening touchdown drive with a 76-yard TD drive of its own, the defense stuffed the Black Knights (0-1, 0-1) next series — three downs and out.

        “That changes momentum right there, and that's important,” said senior linebacker Troy Evans (Lakota High). “We couldn't let them drive on us again.”

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Antwan Peek
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        UC coach Rick Minter made some postgame com ments, but wouldn't take any questions. He knows the Bearcats have a ways to go, and said as much in referring to “rough edges” and “bumps to smooth out.”

        But overall he was positive, praising the running of Jackson and McCleskey, an improved kicking game (Jonathon Ruffin was 3-of-3, with hits of 31, 20 and 26 yards), some good throws by Kenner and hard hits by the defense.

        “We got what we were after, which was a victory,” he said.

        UC beat Army in several statistical categories: first downs (25-15), rushing yards (198-120), passing yards (239-120) and time of possession (34:26-25:34).

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DeJuan Gossett and Kirk Gibbs
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        UC faced several challenges in its opener, and rose to the occasion.

        • A new offensive coordinator. There was an excel lent second-and-12 play called on the final drive that produced a 19-yard completion to tight end Ashley Hunt that culminated in UC's final score, a field goal with 31 seconds left in the game.

        • Jackson's first start in a year after transferring from Michigan.

        • Facing the “new” Army. First-year coach Todd Berry has transformed the Cadets longtime wishbone option attack into a passing offense.

        It was UC's first victory in Conference USA since the last conference game of the 1998 season.

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Kirk Thompson
(AP photo)
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        Everybody agreed there was almost no way the Bearcats could go at least 6-5 and finish in the top four of C-USA without beating Army. This year, for the first time, the top four C-USA teams will go to a bowl, provided they have a winning record.

        Kenner, who threw for 239 yards (18-for-29) but had two interceptions had the best take on the day's performance.

        “A win is a win is a win,” he said. “And it's even better because it's in the conference.”

        One of the interceptions led to an Army field goal.

        Kenner can't throw those balls Saturday against Syracuse if the Bearcats are to shock a high-profile visitor to Clifton for the second straight year (17-12 win over Wisconsin). And Kenner knows it.

        Army ....... 3 0 7 7—17
        Cincinnati ....... 0 6 7 10—23

        First Quarter
        Army—FG Mullen 26, 2:52.
       Second Quarter
        Cin—FG Ruffin 31, 11:51.
        Cin—FG Ruffin 20, :24.
       Third Quarter
        Army—McCallum 1 run (Mullen kick), 7:58.
        Cin—Jackson 37 run from Kenner (Ruffin kick), 5:33.
       Fourth Quarter
        Army—Wallace 6 pass from Jenkins (Mullen kick), 10:11.
        Cin—Collins-Baker 12 pass from Kenner (Ruffin kick), 6:11.
        Cin—FG Ruffin 26, :31.
        A—23,311.

        INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
        RUSHING—Army, Wallace 14-56, McCallum 12-36, Jenkins 6-27, Thompson 1-2, team 1-(minus 1). Cincinnati, Jackson 26-108, McCleskey 19-90, Garden 1-3, team 1-(minus 1), Kenner 4-(minus 2).
        PASSING—Army, Jenkins 14-29-1-123. Cincinnati, Kenner 18-29-2-239.
        RECEIVING—Army, Dodson 6-44, Thompson 4-48, Wallace 3-27, Bowdish 1-4. Cincinnati, Collins-Baker 6-86, Chatman 5-65, Hunt 4-48, Vann 2-36, McCleskey 1-4.

        TEAM STATISTICS


                           Army          UC 
First downs                  15          25 
Rushed-yards             34-120      51-198 
Passing yards               123         239 
Sacked-yards lost           0-0         0-0 
Return yards                 20           8 
Passes                  14-29-1     18-29-2 
Punts                    4-39.3      3-32.0 
Fumbles-lost                2-1         0-0 
Penalties-yards            3-19        6-53 
Time of possession        25:34       34:26 


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- UC 23, Army 17

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