Sunday, November 11, 2001

East Carolina 28, UC 26

Ruffin just shy of winning FG

By Bill Koch
Enquirer contributor

        Jonathan Ruffin knew he had the leg for the job. So did University of Cincinnati football coach Rick Minter. Besides, there really wasn't another viable option.

David Harris stops ECU's Marvin Townes on a kickoff return.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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        Facing fourth down-and-one at the East Carolina 35-yard line and trailing by two points with just 13 seconds left and no timeouts at his disposal, Minter sent Ruffin onto the field to attempt a field goal from 52 yards - eight yards farther than the UC kicker's career high.

        “He has made them before in practice,” Minter said. “That's the only reason we tried it.”

        Ruffin, winner of last year's Lou Groza Award that goes to the nation's best kicker, knew as soon as he struck the ball that the kick would be short. His foot nicked the ground ever so slightly as it approached the ball, slowing it just enough so that it fell about 5 yards short of the goal post.

        “I knew going into the wind that I would have to hit it perfect,” Ruffin said. “I hit it good, but not perfect.”

        With scouts from the Motor City and GMAC bowls in attendance, East Carolina, which nearly blew a 28-3 first-half lead, hung on for a 28-26 victory Saturday before 19,504 fans at Nippert Stadium. UC saw its hopes for its first Conference USA championship vanish.

        The Pirates, 6-3 overall, are 5-0 in the league and face a Thursday night showdown at Louisville for first place. UC is 5-4 overall, 4-2 in the league, and still needs one more victory to become eligible for a bowl bid.

        Just moments before Ruffin's missed field goal, the Bearcats had a chance to tie the game after freshman quarterback George Murray directed an 11-play, 60-yard touchdown drive that he

        completed himself with an eight-yard run.

        UC tried for the two-point conversion on an option pitch to DeMarco McCleskey, but McCleskey was stopped at the three-yard line with 46 seconds left.

        Murray played the entire second half in place of Gino Guidugli, who sprained his left shoulder in the first quarter.

Lewis Carter moves in to help stop ECU's Leonard Henry.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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        “It happened on an option play,” Guidugli said. “I got hit and driven into the ground.”

        Guidugli went into the locker room and missed one series, then returned to finish the half. But the shoulder stiffened up at halftime and Guidugli did not return. He was scheduled to have an MRI today. The Bearcats had been dominated to that point, surrendering 376 yards in the first half, 186 on 12 carries to East Carolina fullback Leonard Henry, the league's leading rusher. Henry would finish with 234 yards on 18 carries.

        Murray led UC on an 11-play, 80-yard drive to start the second half, setting the Bearcats' long comeback into motion. He finished with 54 yards rushing and 86 passing. “I was nervous,” Murray said. “But the players and coaches told me to settle down and they'd be there to support me. After that first completion and after a few runs, I settled down and got into a rhythm.”

        Ruffin's last-gasp field goal attempt was set up by an on-side kick that was recovered by UC's Nathan Wize at the Bearcat 41 with 45 seconds to go.

        UC wide receiver LaDaris Vann caught five passes for 103 yards. He needs two more to break Marlon Pearce's school career receptions record.

Team   1 2 3 4     SCORE
East Carolina   21 7 0 0     28
Cincinnati   3 3 7 13     26
Scoring Summary
1st QuarterEast Carolina Touchdown - 4-yard pass from David Garrard to
Leonard Henry. (Kevin Miller kick). 13:37 remaining.
East Carolina Touchdown - 6-yard run by Leonard Henry.
(Kevin Miller kick). 4:22 remaining.
Cincinnati Field Goal - 27-yarder by Jonathon Ruffin.
0:54 remaining.
East Carolina Touchdown - 15-yard run by David Garrard.
(Kevin Miller kick). 0:19 remaining.
2nd QuarterEast Carolina Touchdown - 6-yard run by Leonard Henry.
(Kevin Miller kick). 8:22 remaining.
Cincinnati Field Goal - 40-yarder by Jonathon Ruffin.
1:26 remaining.
3rd QuarterCincinnati Touchdown - 4-yard run by George Murray.
(Jonathon Ruffin kick). 10:28 remaining.
4th QuarterCincinnati Touchdown - 5-yard run by DeMarco McCleskey.
(Jonathon Ruffin kick). 12:17 remaining.
Cincinnati Touchdown - 8-yard run by George Murray.
(Two-point conversion failed). 0:46 remaining.
Attendance: 19,504
Final Team StatisticsEast Carolina Cincinnati
First downs 1626
Rushes-yards 39-30556-190
Passing yards 159253
Return yards 451
Passing (Att-Comp-Int) 19-12-134-18-1
Punts-Average 6-44.55-40.6
Fumbles-Lost 3-21-0
Penalties-Yards 7-603-36
Time of Possession 24:1135:45
East Carolina - Henry 18-234, Garrard 10-36, Brown 7-31, Fox 1-2, Team 1-(-2), Morris 1-(-6).
Cincinnati - McCleskey 18-97, Murray 21-54, Jackson 10-25, Guidugli 6-17, Vann 1-(-3).
East Carolina - Garrard 12-19-1, 167 yards and 1 touchdown.
Cincinnati - Guidugli 12-25-1, 167 yards. Murray 6-9-0, 86 yards.
East Carolina - Henry 4-36, Copper 2-45, Collier 2-29, Alston 2-14, Brown 1-30, Powell 1-5.
Cincinnati - Vann 5-103, Keith 5-68, Jackson 3-54, Walker 2-11, Drewery 1-8, Olinger 1-5, Wize 1-4.

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