By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
OXFORD - The fumbled punt in the closing seconds was the final blow, but it wasn't Thaddeus Lewis' fumble that gave Miami its third straight victory over the University of Cincinnati and the right to keep the Victory Bell for one more year.
That would be taking too much credit away from Miami quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his fleet of receivers, who were the real reasons the RedHawks were able to post a 42-37 victory over UC on Saturday before a sellout crowd of 27,512 at Yager Stadium.
Miami (3-1) led 42-17 with 13:27 to go before the Bearcats (3-1) staged a torrid comeback that fell short with 40 seconds to go.
"We were outplayed," said UC coach Rick Minter. "We did come roaring back at the end of the game, but this time we came up a little short because we dug ourselves such a large hole earlier in the game."
Actually, it was Roethlisberger who dug that hole. He completed 31 of 49 passes for 377 yards and two touchdowns. He also was intercepted three times.
And although he was thrilled with the victory, he wasn't that thrilled with his performance.
"I tried to do too much again, like in the Iowa game," Roethlisberger said. "But you have to give their defense credit."
UC's offense was helpless in the early going against Miami. The Bearcats failed to convert a first down until the 12:58 mark of the second quarter and, when they fell behind 28-0, were letting Roethlisberger get to them.
"We weren't ready for that," said UC defensive end Andre Frazier. "It took the coaches to calm us down. People were bickering with each other."
Finally, it was running back Richard Hall who got the Bearcats on track. Hall, who gained 161 yards rushing and 61 receiving, accounted for all 53 yards in UC's first touchdown drive that pulled it within 28-7 with 9:04 left in the first half.
Chet Ervin's 40-yard field goal and a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gino Guidugli to Hall made it 28-17 at the half.
"You could almost see the momentum shift," said Miami coach Terry Hoeppner. "It was important to get that momentum back in the third quarter, or who knows what would have happened?"
Miami appeared to put away the game when Cal Murray scored on a 5-yard touchdown run with 13:27 left to make it 42-17.
But Guidugli led the Bearcats on a seven-play, 98-yard touchdown drive to make it 42-23 after the 2-point conversion pass failed.
Doug Monaghan then blocked a Todd Soderquist field goal attempt that was returned 78 yards for a touchdown by Daven Holly, and with 4:04 left, UC was still alive.
Kevin Hazel recovered the on-side kick for UC and the Bearcats scored again on an eight-play, 50-yard drive with 2:12 to go, George Murray scoring from 5 yards out on a quarterback keeper to make it 42-37.
After the UC defense held, it appeared the Bearcats would get one last shot. They had no timeouts remaining, but they did have Guidugli.
"He's the fourth-quarter king," Roethlisberger said.
As everyone waited to see what Guidugli and his offense would do, Lewis fumbled Mike Wafzig's punt at his own 15-yard line as he was hit by Michael Larkin. Ryan Sprague recovered for Miami and UC was finished. "It was bad fundamentals," Lewis said. "I just took my eye off the ball."
But Minter said Lewis' mistake didn't cost UC the game. Turnovers, dropped passes and the inability to contain Roethlisberger were far more damaging.
Stars of the game
QB Ben Roethlisberger: 31-of-49 for 377 yards, 2 TDs, 3 interceptions
RB Richard Hall: 25 carries, 161 yards; 6 catches, 61 yards; 2 TDs
2003: Miami 42, UC 37
2002: Miami 31, UC 26
2001: Miami 21, UC 14
2000: UC 45, Miami 15
1999: UC 52, Miami 42
1998: Miami 41, UC 0
1997: UC 34, Miami 31 (2OT)
1996: UC 30, Miami 23 (3OT)
1995: Miami 30, UC 28
1994: Miami 17, UC 17 (tie)
MIA-Smith 7 run (Soderquist kick), 2:26
MIA-Murray 5 run (Soderquist kick), 1:45
MIA-Brandt 14 pass from Roethlisberger (Soderquist kick), 13:47
MIA-Smith 1 run (Soderquist kick), 11:22
CIN-Hall 8 run (Manfredini kick), 9:04
CIN-FG Ervin 40, 3:07
CIN-Hall 5 pass from Guidugli (Manfredini kick), :15
MIA-Brandt 7 pass from Roethlisberger(Soderquist kick), 9:41
MIA-Murray 3 run (Soderquist kick), 13:27
CIN-Vann 1 pass from Guidugli (pass failed),8:15
CIN-FG 78 missed return (Manfredini kick), 4:04
CIN-Murray 5 run (Manfredini kick), 1:51
|Time of Possession||26:09||33:51|
RUSHING-UC, Hall 25-161, Murray 2-8, Vann 2-5, Guidugli 4-(-22). MU, Smith 18-50, Murray 12-42, Roethlisberger 6-10.
PASSING-UC, Guidugli 17-39-1-226. MU, Roethlisberger 31-49-3-377.
RECEIVING-UC, Hall 6-61, Ross 4-103, Dawley 2-12, Daniels 1-33, Poland 1-6, Koester 1-5, Murray 1-5, Van 1-1. MU, Brandt 8-93, Nance 5-115, Larkin 5-40, Corbin 4-63, Busing 3-36, Smith 3-8, Robinson 2-14, Murray 1-8.
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