Sunday, September 22, 2002

Ohio State 23, UC 19

Upset slips through Bearcats' fingers

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The University of Cincinnati players and coaches couldn't help but feel like they should have won Saturday. There was no feeling of a moral victory after their 23-19 loss to No. 6 Ohio State at Paul Brown Stadium.

George Murray anguishes after dropping a fourth-down pass in the end zone.
        The Bearcats were leading 19-17 when OSU quarterback Craig Krenzel scrambled into the end zone from 6 yards out with 3:44 left.

        That set the stage for another Gino Guidugli comeback. The sophomore quarterback, who has rallied UC to victory in the fourth quarter four times in his career, led the Bearcats to the OSU 15-yard line with about a minute to play.

        UC took four shots at the end zone. Twice, Bearcat receivers had chances to make game-winning catches. Twice, they dropped the ball.

        OSU (4-0) secured the victory when a fourth-down pass intended for LaDaris Vann was deflected by Buckeyes linebacker Matt Wilhelm and intercepted in the end zone by safety Will Allen.

        “It sucks,” said Guidugli, who finished 26-of-52 passing for 324 yards with one TD and two interceptions. “It sucks so bad. You'd rather get blown out than lose like this. You don't take nothing from a loss, not a (darn) thing. It hurts bad.”

        On first down on UC's final series, Guidugli threw a fade into the right corner of the end zone to Jon Olinger, with Ohio State freshman E.J.Underwood - a Hamilton High School graduate - defending.

  • UC coach Rick Minter on two missed catches in the end zone: “We had a couple of near misses. Give their defensive backs credit (but) both of those balls should have been caught.”
  • OSU QB Craig Krenzel: “We know we made too many mistakes. We almost beat ourselves today.”
  • UC receiver LaDaris Vann, on the final, fourth-down interception: “I thought it was pass interference. Mike Doss (Ohio State strong safety) pushed me when I was running through, but the referee didn't call it.”
  - Associated Press
        “I know I can make that play,” Olinger said. “If I had caught it, then we'd be celebrating instead of sitting here with our heads down. He might have gotten a hand on it, but I count those as a drop because I had it on the way down, and when I hit the ground, it just popped up. He's a good defender, but I still should've made the catch.”

        After another attempt for Olinger that wasn't close, Guidugli threw to the left side and lofted a pass to an outstretched George Murray, who also appeared to make a catch.

        “When I dove and landed on the ground, the ball rolled under me,” Murray said. “When I hit the ground, I curled up my body thinking I still had it. When I patted my chest, I felt the ball wasn't in there. That's when my world came tumbling down. That was a perfect pass.”

        Said Guidugli: “Twice, I thought we had it won. But that's how the dice rolled today.”

        With a crowd of 66,319 - the largest to watch a sporting event in Cincinnati - looking on, the Bearcats (1-2) had a chance to become the first in-state team to beat the Buckeyes in 81 years.

        UC finished with 415 total yards to Ohio State's 292. The Bearcats had more first downs (20-16), ran more plays (75-67) and had more quarterback sacks (4-2).

        But the Buckeyes escaped by forcing three second-half turnovers, including the final play, and shutting out Cincinnati for the final 17 minutes.

        “We're not taking solace in playing close,” UC coach Rick Minter said.

        The Bearcats went with a no-huddle offense all day, and several times used four- and five-receiver formations.

        Cincinnati led 12-7 at halftime and could have been ahead by more. The Buckeyes were outplayed and had three turnovers - none of which UC converted into points.

        The first quarter was all Bearcats. After 15 minutes, OSU had one first down, 20 total yards and was 0-of-4 on third-down conversions. The Buckeyes went three-and-out on their first three possessions and fumbled the ball away on their fourth. To that point, they had zero total yards on offense.

        “We played an excellent football team,” OSU coach Jim Tressel said. “We definitely take our hats off to them. The stadium was an electric environment, and I feel we are very fortunate to leave with a win.”

        On UC's first possession, it marched 80 yards in nine plays, scoring on a 1-yard run by DeMarco McCleskey. Guidugli connected on his first five pass attempts and was 6-of-7 on the drive. Jonathan Ruffin missed the extra point, and it was 6-0.

        The second time UC had the ball, it drove 37 yards in five plays to set up a 44-yard field goal by Ruffin. He was short on his first 49-yard attempt later in the quarter but hit his second try with 6:05 left in the second quarter to give Cincinnati a 12-7 lead.

        The Buckeyes took their first lead at 14-12 on a 4-yard TD pass from Krenzel to Chris Vance 4:07 into the second half.

        UC went back ahead when Guidugli hit Tye Keith with a 5-yard pass for a 19-14 lead with 2:36 left in the third quarter.

        OSU scored the only fourth-quarter points, on a 24-yard field goal by Mike Nugent and Krenzel's game-winning run, during which he eluded three UC defenders.

        “We let an opportunity to win a big game get away,” Minter said. “We made too many mistakes, too many errors in crunch time. That's why we're sitting here 1-2.

        “We're not good enough against a team like Ohio State to make errors and overcome them.”

        Two fourth-quarter plays really hurt the Bearcats. On first down from the OSU 18, Guidugli threw a pass toward the end zone on the left side, but there was no receiver there. Chris Gamble intercepted for the Buckeyes.

        “A miscommunication,” Guidugli called it later.

        On UC's next possession, Buckeyes defensive end Darrion Scott blindsided Guidugli, who fumbled while being sacked. Defensive tackle David Thompson recovered for OSU, which then drove for the final score.

        “I felt that it was our game,” UC defensive end Antwan Peek said. “To be that close with one of the top teams in the nation - you've got to give us our respect. Ohio State, they're predicted to be the only team that can beat (No.1) Miami. Since we gave them a game, what do you say about us?”


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