Saturday, September 27, 2003

'Cats bracing for a dogfight


Must contain QB Roethlisberger to end 2-game loss streak in series

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

University of Cincinnati football coach Rick Minter was amused this week when he heard that the Miami student body president had invited Xavier students to drive to Oxford today to root against their common enemy - the UC Bearcats.

"I guess they don't have enough support up there in their own program so they have to get another university to help them," Minter said.

Actually, Minter rather enjoyed the ploy by the Miami students because it adds the kind of spice to the UC-Miami football rivalry that the UC-Xavier basketball Crosstown Shootout has enjoyed for years.

"That's all part of it," Minter said.

What he and his Bearcats won't enjoy is watching Miami quarterback Ben Roethlisberger fling the ball around the field when the two long-time rivals square off at 2 p.m. in the first game played on the new FieldTurf at Yager Stadium.

Miami leads the series 57-43-7 and has won the last two battles for the Victory Bell. The RedHawks are 2-1 this season, their only loss coming against 13th-ranked Iowa. UC (3-0) is seeking its first 4-0 start since 1954.

Roethlisberger is 2-0 in his personal duel against UC and quarterback Gino Guidugli. In those two games, he's 47-of-62 (75.8 percent) for 504 yards and three touchdowns. He'll be going against a UC defense that had dominated its first two opponents until last week when Temple stung the Bearcats for 522 yards, 415 through the air.

"They did a lot of things to us that we didn't see on film in the previous game they played," said UC linebacker Jamar Enzor. "I think a lot of our players underestimated them a little bit. We know how good Ben Roethlisberger is. We'll be prepared."

Roethlisberger thrives in a Miami offense that has averaged 525 yards in its last two games and leans heavily on short, high percentage throws mixed in with a running game that averages 136 yards a game with running backs Cal Murray and Mike Smith. The redshirt junior's scrambling ability makes the Miami offense that much more difficult to contain.

And his accuracy is uncanny. He hasn't thrown an interception in his last 76 passes and has completed 75 percent of those passes for 683 yards and five touchdowns.

"We've got to put pressure on him, do our job with the receivers and don't give him anywhere to throw the ball," said UC cornerback Zach Norton. That's the most important thing. If he doesn't have anywhere to throw, he has to throw it away or get sacked, because our defensive line is pretty good."

UC will need a strong effort up front, particularly from defensive end Trent Cole, who leads UC with 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

"I don't know of anybody who plays with as high of a motor as Trent Cole," said Miami coach Terry Hoeppner. "When you watch the tape, you notice him. You don't have to look very long before he jumps off the tape."

UC counters with a potent offense of its own, led by Guidugli - who passed for 321 yards last week - and a running game that has averaged 221 yards a game, 11th best in the country.

The Bearcats will be facing a Miami defense that allowed only 80 yards on 56 carries (a 1.4-yard average) vs. Northwestern and Colorado State. If the RedHawks continue their stinginess against the run, that will serve to heighten the quarterback battle even more.

The key for UC's defense, Minter says, is to remain patient in the face of the Roethlisberger onslaught.

"We've got to understand that in this style of offense they're going to throw and catch the ball a little bit," Minter said. "We've got to be patient and not let a 5-yard hitch route discourage us, because if you start letting it happen, then you get overly aggressive and turn those hitches into missed tackles."

Cincinnati at Miami

Kickoff: 2 p.m. today, Yager Stadium (30,012), Oxford.

Records: UC 3-0, Miami 2-1.

Radio: WCKY-AM (1360), WMOH-AM (1450).

TV: None (canceled).

Series: MU leads 57-43-7.

Line: Miami by 7.

What to watch: In their third meeting, Miami's Ben Roethlisberger and UC's Gino Guidugli will attempt to match each other pass for pass, but this game could hinge on which defense can stand up better against the offensive onslaught.

UCTeam statsMiami
419Offense avg. 452
221Avg. by rush136
193Avg. by pass316
323Defense avg.354
94Avg. by rush104
229Avg. by pass250
28Avg. points for 29
13Avg. pts. against 19

---

E-mail bkoch@enquirer.com




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