Wednesday, December 06, 2000

UC's Ruffin named nation's top place-kicker

Sophomore wins Lou Groza Award

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Fourteen months ago, as a freshman, he couldn't make a kick. Tuesday night, Jonathan Ruffin won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top college place-kicker.

        In the closest voting ever for the award, only two votes separated the University of Cincinnati sophomore from third place.

        It was heady stuff for Ruffin, UC's first consensus All-American, and the bowl-bound Bearcats. To be a consensus All-American, a player must be named on three or more of the six major All-American teams. Ruffin already has been named to the Football Writers, Walter Camp and The Sporting News.

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(AP Photos)
Jonathan Ruffin (16) is congratulated by Joe Harrison (38) after kicking winning field goal against Southern Miss.
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        Ruffin was 26-of-29 on field goals this season.

        At his lowest point — Game 4 of 1999, a 23-20 loss at Houston — Ruffin missed two field goals and had an extra point blocked.

        “Everything hit me all at once,” Ruffin said. “After that, nobody believed I could make a kick, and I didn't either.”

        He began '99 4-of-5 on field goals, then made only one of his last seven. UC coach Rick Minter even signed a junior-college place-kicker, Victor DiMauro, before this season but wound up red-shirting him when Minter saw how Ruffin had straightened himself out.

        Ruffin knew from the time of spring camp he was going to have a solid sophomore year. When he hit three field goals in UC's opening-game victory over Army, 23-17, his confidence rocketed.

        “That's the difference — confidence,” Ruffin said. “I never thought I wouldn't have a good college career. I dreamed of being an All-American someday. But at no point last year after the Houston game did the thought ever cross my mind.”

        The Bearcats are Motor City Bowl-bound, and Ruffin was named UC's MVP.


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