Wednesday, December 20, 2000

UC to prepare for bowl in Pontiac

Bad weather here; indoor facility there

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The University of Cincinnati football team — seeking drier ground and the Detroit experience — leaves today for the Motor City Bowl.

        UC's opponent Dec.27, Marshall University, is making its fourth straight trip to the Motor City Bowl. The Thundering Herd will arrive in Detroit on Christmas Eve.

        “We need to get up there (to the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich.) and get some work done,” UC coach Rick Minter said. “Look outside at the Ice Bowl (Nippert Stadium) and the hockey rink (Nippert's FieldTurf). ... This is that time of year where you really do long to have a great indoor facility.”

        Marshall doesn't have an indoor facility either. Huntington, W.Va., is cold but so far has had only a dusting of snow. But Marshall has never been one to knock heads much before these bowl games. Film work and getting healthy have been the emphasis.

        It has been a successful formula, as the Herd are 2-1 in the Motor City Bowl, winning 21-3 over Brigham Young last season and 48-29 over Louisville two years ago, but losing 34-31 to Mississippi in 1997.

        Marshall last played Dec.2; UC hasn't played since Nov.18.

        “It's a cause for alarm,” Minter said. “Football is all about timing, conditioning and killer instinct. The farther you get away from having played a game, the more you're inviting mishaps.”

        UC has sold 5,200 tickets of its 8,000 allotment. Marshall has sold 5,000. Tickets are $38 each. Unsold tickets among the 8,000 will be subtracted from each school's $750,000 bowl payouts.

        Each school wants to sell all 8,000 tickets — even if the buyers can't go to the game — because the purchase is considered an investment in the football program. Tickets that are bought by fans who can't go to the game will be given to youth groups in Greater Detroit, if the purchasers designate. Marshall figures to have between 10,000 and 12,000 fans at the game. UC will do well to have a third of that.

        “After three years, a lot of our fans know where to get bargains on tickets,” Marshall sports information director Ricky Hazel said.

        Last year Marshall sold 12,000 tickets and had about 30,000 fans attend, he said.

        Minter scoffed at UC being a three-point favorite.

        “The only thing every kid on their team knows is that the last game of the season is played in Detroit, Mich. They know where all the hangouts are. They know how to win and rally.”

        The Thundering Herd had been clobbered at home, 30-10, by Mid-American Conference foe Western Michigan but then turned around and beat Western 19-14 in the MAC championship game.

        “You could tell in the final quarter who had been there and who hadn't,” Minter said. “There were 7 minutes left and Marshall had just lost the lead. Byron Leftwich (Marshall's quarterback) basically said, "Put the team on my shoulders.' I think that was a real coming-of-age thing for him.”

        TICKETS: Call 556-CATS. One- and two-day travel deals are offered by Provident Travel and Traveleaders.

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