By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Rick Minter walked into the Shoemaker Center meeting room to address the media wearing a thick chain around his neck, a chain that has been passed around among the University of Cincinnati defensive players during the preseason.
Minter admitted that the symbol might be a bit of a cliche, but he wasn't about to decline to wear it when cornerback Zach Norton presented it to him.
"This is our mantra on defense this year," said the UC head football coach. "Don't break the chain. Don't be the weak link in the defense and hang in there tight together."
There were no weak links in the UC defense Monday. The Bearcats, the defending Conference USA co-champions, opened their season before 28,011 fans at Nippert Stadium with a 40-3 shellacking of East Carolina (0-1), ruining the head coaching debut of the Pirates' John Thompson.
It was a suffocating defensive performance that stunned the East Carolina players.
"They just dominated the line of scrimmage the entire game," said East Carolina quarterback Desmond Robinson. "We knew they'd be very good, but we thought we could do a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage."
Before the game, the UC coaches challenged their defense to limit the Pirates to 140 yards rushing and 160 yards passing. The Bearcats took it as an insult.
"We told them that was too high," said linebacker Jamar Enzor.
Instead, UC (1-0) held East Carolina to 203 total yards - 146 passing and just 57 rushing. Defensive end Trent Cole led the way with 10 tackles and one of four UC sacks.
Minter talked during the preseason about the defense setting the tone until the newcomers on offense could get acclimated with each other. The defense upheld its end of the bargain, but as it turned out, the offensive players weren't exactly a bunch of slackers.
They rolled up 489 yards, 361 on the ground, and received 100-yard performances from both junior Richard Hall, who was making his first UC start, and redshirt freshman Derrick Eddington, who had 138 yards on 11 carries.
Hall gained a career-high 111 yards on 24 carries, but also fumbled twice, which led to his being benched for most of the second half in favor of Eddington. Hall's second fumble was recovered by East Carolina on the UC 38-yard line and resulted in a third-quarter, 36-yard field goal.
"I felt bad for the defense," Hall said. "They pitched a shutout."
The defense counted it as a shutout anyway, and for good measure, added a fourth-quarter safety by Enzor. The Bearcats set the tone right away. After stopping the Pirates on their own 42, they drove to the East Carolina 15 the first time they had the ball, mostly on Hall runs, before he coughed up his first fumble. But it was obvious that the Bearcats could run at will against the East Carolina defense.
UC quarterback Gino Guidugli threw only 25 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown, which tied Danny McCoin for the school record with 39. He also ran for 45 yards.
Cin-Hall 1 run (Manfredini kick), 5:23.
Cin-Harwell 1 run (Manfredini kick), 1:44.
Cin-Hart 29 pass from Guidugli (Manfredini kick), 0:23.
ECar-FG Broadwell 36, 11:16.
Cin-Eddington 23 run (Manfredini kick), 7:13.
Cin-FG Ervin 42, 1:19.
Cin-Safety, Troth sacked in end zone by Enzor, 5:32.
Cin-Harwell 10 run (Manfredini kick), 1:25.
|Time of Possession||26:08||33:52|
RUSHING-East Carolina, Townes 15-36, Leach 5-12, Fain 2-11, Robinson 5-5, Tillman 2-5, Troth 3-(minus 12). Cincinnati, Eddington 11-138, Hall 24-117, Harwell 6-52, Guidugli 8-45, Koester 5-10, Vann 1-0.
PASSING-East Carolina, Robinson 7-11-1-146, Troth 9-15-0-76. Cincinnati, Guidugli 13-25-0-121, Carey 1-2-0-7.
RECEIVING-East Carolina, Copper 11-106, Coffman 1-23, Wright 1-8, Hourigan 1-4, Bowling 1-4, Townes 1-1. Cincinnati, Murray 3-21, Hart 2-40, Dawley 2-23, Eddington 2-1, Hall 1-17, Hazel 1-9, Daniels 1-7, Celek 1-7, Ross 1-3.
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