Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Memorable Bearcat Games: Cincinnati 26 West Virginia 23

This Memorable Bearcat Game took place during the magical 2008 season. It was a battle of 6-2 teams, Cincinnati and West Virginia. The Bearcats came into the game 1-1 in the Big East, but were coming off a huge win at South Florida the week before. West Virginia had been rolling since starting the season 1-2. At this point in the season, we didn't know for sure if the Bearcats were going to be contenders in the Big East. This was their big chance to show their stuff. Every year it seems that the conference champion has to go through West Virginia to the crown, and it certainly was the case in 2008. Pat White even had a championship belt.
 The stage was set. Morgantown, West Virginia. 60,00 crazy fans. A night to remember.

The Bearcats took advantage of the opening kickoff. By took advantage, I mean Mardy Gilyard returned the kick 100 yards for a touchdown. Here's a picture of Mardy running.

Suffice to say, that stunned the crowd. Also stunning the crowd was when WVU went 3 and out. Cincinnati couldn't do much on their possession and punted back. The Bearcats defense stifled WVU yet again, forcing a punt. This time Pat McAfee shanked it, setting UC up at the Mountaineer 33. John Goebel popped a 5 yard run on first down, but the drive stalled there. Jake Rogers calmly nailed a 46 yarder to make the score 10-0.

That score seemed to wake the Mountaineers up. Starting at their 23, Pat White took over. He busted a 15 yard run, and an 8 yard run around a 4 yard run by Noel Devine to get WVU to midfield. The Bearcats forced a third and long, but White hit Jock Sanders for 30 yards to the UC 19. White hit Alric Arnett on the next play for a touchdown and it was quickly a ball game at 10-7. The Bearcats drive went nowhere, ending in a sack. The defense would end up making a big play. Facing a 3rd and 1, WVU gave the ball to Devine, who tried to go up the middle, but was stripped. Brandon Underwood recovered for UC at the WVU 34. Tony Pike hit Dominick Goodman for 12 yards, John Goebel for 6, and ran for 11 getting the ball to the WVU 5. This was the first full game Pike played in after his broken left forearm. He left the previous UConn and South Florida games. The Bearcats ate a false start, and couldn't get closer, settling for a 31 yard field goal to make the score 13-7 to end the first quarter.

WVU started quarter 2 with a little drive, going from their 23 to their 47, before a holding penalty, and a false start forced them into long yardage plays. They punted UC back to the 21, setting the stage for maybe the biggest drive of the game.

Pike started things off by hitting Goodman once again for 25 yards, followed by a 6 yard run by Jacob Ramsey and another 7 yard pass to Goodman. That put the ball at the Mountaineer 39. But things went back on the Bearcats, getting hit with an illegal use of hands and a holding penalty to make it 1st and 30 at the UC 41. A pass to Ben Guidugli  for 7, and a 6 yard Ramsey run set up a 3rd and 17. Pike found Goodman yet again for 18 yards and a Bearcat first down. Pike hit Kazeem Alli for 6, another Ramsey run for 5 yards netted a first down, and another pass to Goodman for 9 put UC at the 8 yard line. Pike hit Marcus Waugh for a first down to the 5. After a 1 yard Ramsey run, Pike scrambled the last 4 yards on a looking left, looking left, run right play for the Cincinnati touchdown, capping a 12 play, 73 yard drive that took 9 minutes plus. It also made the score 20-7.

WVU went 3 and out on their next possession, punting to the UC 25. The Bearcats popped a 66 yard pass to John Goebel to get the ball to the 13. The Bearcats could only move the ball 2 yards, setting Jake Rogers up for a 29 yard FG. Unfortunately for UC, Rogers jaked it off the upright for his first miss of the season. That was lame, but the lameness makes you like it. Neither team did anything special to end the half. We went to the locker room with UC up 20-7.

The third quarter pretty much played out like this. Incomplete pass, short run, sack, penalty, punt. The first 4 drives the teams went 3 and out with their punters Pat McAfee and Kevin Huber drilling 50 yard punts. McAfee ruined it by hitting a 49 yarder, and Huber followed with a 33 yard punt. McAfee boomed his next one 56 yards however. Huber's leg must have been tired, because his next punt was shanked, going 28 yards to the WVU 47.

The Mountaineers got the first 1st down of the quarter, when following a 7 yard White run, White passed to Sanders, who did a lateral to Devine for 10 yards. Following a sack by Curtis Young that ended quarter 3, White hit Devine for 7 to set up 3rd and 8. White rushed for no gain, but drew a personal foul penalty on the Bearcats to keep the drive alive. Runs by Sanders, and Devine set up 1st and 10 from the 11. White threw the ball three times, 2 incompletions around a 5 yard pass to Devine, setting up a big 4th and 5. WVU decided to go for it. White tried to run to daylight on a bootleg left, but was pushed out of bounds shy of the first down, resulting in a turnover on downs.

Cincinnati took over at the 3. Brian Kelly decided to ride Jacob Ramsey. Ramsey picked up 4, 4, 2 (resulting in the first UC first down of the half), 5 and 2. The last 2 yards resulted from holding, making it 2nd and 13. Goebel couldn't run for those yards, setting up a 54 yard Huber punt that was returned 7 yards by Sanders to the WVU 40. The UC drive took 4:32, leaving WVU with 6:49.

West Virginia would drive again. White hit Bradley Starks for 24 to the UC 37. After an incompletion and 8 yard pass to Starks, Devine converted a 3rd and 2 with a 4 yard run. White hit Devine with 2 passes of 4 and 5 yards around an incompletion, setting up a 4th and 1 at the UC 15. Once again White ran, but this time, he got the first down. His next pass attempt drew a pass interference, giving WVU a 1st and goal at the 2. White threw an incompletion, ran for a yard, and ran for a loss of a yard, setting up another huge 4th down. This time, WVU went for a pass. White stared down Jock Sanders, threw, and was intercepted by DeAngelo Smith. Smith played White and the ball perfectly. It looked like WVU had just blown their best opportunity to come back.

UC had 3:22 on the clock, the ball at the 3, and 0 timeouts for West Virginia. The Bearcats gave the ball to Goebel twice, but he only got 4 yards. On 3rd and 6, Ramsey picked up 4. UC took a delay of game. Not wanting to risk a blocked kick, and playing for field position, Kelly did the smart thing and had Huber take a safety. That made the score 20-9 with only 1:11 remaining.

The free kick by Rogers was returned to the WVU 39 by Sanders. After an incompletion, White hit Sanders for 14 to the UC 47. The biggest play came on the next play. White hit Dorrell Jalloh for 23 yards, but UC was hit with a backbreaking personal foul putting the ball at the 9. White's first pass was incomplete. On second down, WVU had a false start, making it 2nd and goal at the 14. White hit Sanders for 11 to set up 3rd and goal at the 3. White's pass was incomplete. All UC needed was one more stop to finish the game. Instead, White converted with a pass to Jalloh. White ran in the 2 point conversion to make the score 20-17.

WVU got another break when Mortty Ivy recovered the onside kick. WVU's special teams made a big blunder to start the game, and a big play to save it. With 18 seconds left, White hit Jalloh yet again for 21 yard to the UC 35. An incomplete pass set up a field goal attempt for McAfee, which would tie his career high. The strong footed kicker made the pressure kick, sending the crowd into a frenzy, and sending the game into overtime.

Dustin Grutza was the starting QB for UC in 2008. He suffered a broken leg against Oklahoma, and watched Tony Pike turn into, well, Tony Pike. Grutza was the captain for UC on this day. His fateful call of I'm guessing tails, because tails never fails, allowed UC the option for overtime. UC took defense. At first, it didn't look good. Devine rushed for 9, 2, 3 and 4. That brought 3rd and 3 at the 7. Terrill Byrd made the biggest play for the defense, as he corralled White for a 3 yard sack. McAfee was true from 27, giving WVU a 23-20 lead.

UC took possession, and finally remembered that they were allowed to play offense. Pike hit Goodman for 10 yards and a first down, followed by a WVU personal foul that was half the distance to the goal. Jacob Ramsey busted for 5 yards. On 2nd and 2, Pike went play action. Every Mountaineer went left, Pike rolled right. Kazeem Alli was wide open. Earlier in the game, Pike overthrew a wide open Alli on a sure touchdown. This time, Pike was right on the money.

Pike for the game was 16-30 for 178 and the 1 TD. Goodman had 6 catches for 81 yards. Ramsey led UC in rushing, 18 carries for 83 yards. Aaron Webster had 13 tackles, and was big everywhere on defense for Cincinnati. On the WVU side, White was 20-38 for 219, 2 TDs and 1 INT. White had 41 yards rushing, and the conversion. Noel Devine led WVU with 58 yards on 19 carries, but fumbled. Jalloh was the leading WVU receiver, with 54 yards on 4 catches and a TD. Sanders had 52 yards on 5 catches. UC 260 yards, WVU 317. But WVU had 98 rushing yards, which was the first time they had under 100 yards rushing since 2001.

As you know, UC won this game and never looked back. This was the win that gave UC legitimacy. It was Brian Kelly's 5th win against a ranked team, UC had 4 it's entire history before him. It was the second win for UC ever over West Virginia. It was the win that gave confidence to the players, and especially fans, that UC was onto something special. That's why UC 26 West Virginia 23 is a Memorable Bearcat Game.

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