Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Gutsy wins don't have to be pretty



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        With 6:11 to go, UC trailed TCU by 15 and its star running back was flat on his back with an ice boulder on his bruised left thigh. From his spot on a cushioned sideline table, all DeMarco McCleskey could see were the stars emerging above him in the night sky above Nippert Stadium.

        The man had played more than three quarters. He missed the whole show.

        The curtain rises

        From now on, Gino Guidugli doesn't get the ball until he needs two late touchdowns to tie the game. Just tell him when the fourth quarter gets there.

        Until then, let UC's sophomore quarterback file his nails or play Madden 2003.

        If you were among the 25,518 souls who attended UC's 36-29 improbability over Texas Christian, you might not have seen the win, either. That's because at least half of you bailed before the game ended. And, as Guidugli himself noted, “You better not leave the stadium if it's in reach.”

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Gino Guidugli is hugged by running back DeMarco McCleskey after Guidugli scored a touchdown in overtime to beat TCU.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        It was in reach. It was a reach. But there was Guidugli, miserable for more than three quarters, scoring a two-point conversion to tie the game and running the QB draw in overtime to win it. Said defensive end Antwan Peek, “As long as we have the Comeback Kid, we're good to go.”

        It wasn't Picasso or a California sunset. If you hung this win on your wall, you'd never have guests.

        “You won't beat a lot of teams playing like we did,” UC coach Rick Minter said. But a win is a win, even if it looked uglier than your first car.

        Spectacular finish

        Here's how it happened:

        UC was fourth-and-10 from TCU's 19 with 6:11 to play, when Guidugli threw 13 yards to Jon Olinger for the first down. Olinger had dropped a pass the previous play. “Come back to me, I'm going to be there,” he told Guidugli.

        Richard Hall's first carry in five years produced a 4-yard TD run to make it 29-21. UC got the ball back at the 50-yard line, then Guidugli hit LaDaris Vann with a 35-yard TD pass. After four — yes, four — timeouts and two TCU penalties, Guidugli bulled in from the 18-inch line for the two-point tie.

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LaDaris Vann breaks away from TCU linebacker Devon Davis and takes it to the house with less than two minutes to play.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        The finish was spectacular, unusual and typical for Guidugli who, after a 75-yard TD pass on the first play of the game, was largely awful until he had to be great. “Uncertain,” Minter called him.

        He's a magic man

        There is a bit of magic in Guidugli. UC rallied four times in the fourth quarter last year. So, when the Comeback Kid called his own number and ran nearly unbothered for the 14-yarder to win it in OT on Monday, it almost seemed expected.

        It was a big win for the Bearcats, on ESPN, before a decent crowd, with Guidugli, the local kid, leading the comeback. They need a few more of those to continue their push into the local sports consciousness.

        “We're off to a flying start being the Cardiac Kids again,” Rick Minter decided.

        Then he took a breath for the first time in an hour.

       



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UC 36, TCU 29 (OT)
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