BY JOHN FAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
OXFORD - Miami had used the play three or four times before, with varying success, but when the RedHawks called for a wide receiver screen this time, the University of Cincinnati was ready.
The call came on third-and-6 in the second overtime.
Travis Prentice runs for a 9-yard TD in the third quarter.
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MU quarterback Sam Ricketts put the ball about where it was supposed to go, but with UC players crowded around the blockers and receivers, the ball hit Damian Vaughn in the back and bounced into the hands of Artrell Hawkins of UC.
Four plays later, UC's Eric Richards kicked a 35-yard field goal to give UC a 34-31 victory.
It was fitting the game turned on a turnover. Miami won all the stats - from first downs to total yards to time of possession - except turnovers.
''We were dominant,'' Ricketts said. ''But it's the turnovers. It will be that way as long as football is played.''
Miami had four turnovers to one for UC. That was enough to overcome the startling stats. Miami had 419 total yards to 215 for UC. The RedHawks ran 91 plays to 61 for UC and had 27 first downs to eight for UC. ''I'm disappointed obviously,'' Walker said. ''UC made the plays when they had to and we didn't. We got back in it and sent it to overtime in spite of ourselves.''
Nod Washington (5), chased by Miami's Eddie Johnson, breaks a long-third-quarter pun return.
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Miami dominated from the start. But UC built a 24-10 lead through big plays.
The biggest was Chad Plummer's 61-yard TD run on the first play of the second half.
''We had that defensed too well,'' Walker said. ''Plummer did a great job. We had him corralled, but he made a great play. He's a one-man show, so to speak.''
That put UC up 24-10.
Miami closed it to seven on Travis Prentice's 19th TD of the year, a 9-yard run, on its next possession.
Jay Hall (81) eludes UC's Gerald Bramboy (48).
Miami's offense never quite clicked until the very end of regulation. Ricketts took MU 44 yards in 40 seconds, hitting Ty Buxton for 16 yards on a pass for the tying TD with 23 seconds left.
That sent it to overtime for the second straight year. Each team scored a TD in the first OT. Then Miami won the coin flip and took the ball first in the second OT.
MU's chances ended with the ill-fated screen on third-and-6 two plays later.
''I wish I had a crystal ball,'' Walker said. ''But you call the best play you think of for the situation. They (the Bearcats) executed extremely well on the play.''
Said Ricketts: ''What you don't want is a turnover.''
Ricketts had a big day - 29-of-46 for 290 yards and two TDs - but he had two interceptions and two fumbles.
''This is a game that stays with you,'' Ricketts said. ''It's going to be a challenge for us to come back. But I think we will.''
Said Walker: ''I'm beside myself. I'm frustrated, disappointed. But I'm proud of our kids. A lesser football team would have thrown in the towel today. But we got what we deserved. A better football team won.''
WEIRDNESS KICKS IN FOR UC Paul Daugherty column
TURNOVERS KILL MIAMI
UC SEASON IN STORIES
'THE GAME' SHOULD BE GREAT GAME Oct, 25, 1997
THE TOUCHDOWN MAN: TRAVIS PRENTICE Oct. 24, 1997
WALKER WOULD RATHER SEE UC LATER Oct. 22, 1997
Previous game reports
MIAMI 45, MARSHALL 21 Oct. 19, 1997
MIAMI 62, KENT 26 Oct. 5, 1997
MIAMI 24, VIRGINIA TECH 17 Oct. 5, 1997
MIAMI 38, ARMY 14 Sept. 28, 1997
MIAMI 49, AKRON 20 Sept. 14, 1997
BOWLING GREEN 28, MIAMI 21 Sept. 7, 1997
MIAMI 27, BALL STATE 10 Aug. 31, 1997