Sunday, September 26, 2004

Bearcats victorious in C-USA opener


Freshman back Benton rushes for 128 yards

By Bill Koch
Enquirer staff writer

GREENVILLE, N.C. - It was a one-two punch that East Carolina was helpless to stop, first Richard Hall and then Butler Benton and then Hall again chewing up the fourth quarter.

PHOTO GALLERY
photo gallery
Photos of Saturday's game
The University of Cincinnati Bearcats consumed 79 yards over the final eight minutes and five seconds of the game, and with the exception of two passes, it was all Benton and Hall and the UC offensive line taking care of business to finish off a 24-19 victory over East Carolina on Saturday night before 29,332 fans at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

6Benton, a true freshman from Detroit, finished with 127 yards on 25 carries for the first 100-yard game of his career, and Hall finished with 98 yards on 20 carries as the Bearcats took advantage of the worst defense in Division I-A football, a defense that entered the game allowing 359 rushing yards per game.

"That keeps us both fresh going in there against a defense that's been out there a long time," Benton said his partnership with Hall. "I guess that gives us the advantage. And it keeps the pressure off both of us."

The victory ended a 7-game road losing streak for UC and gave the Bearcats (2-2 overall, 1-0 in Conference USA) a positive start as they begin their final season in the league.

East Carolina (0-3, 0-1) has lost eight straight.

"Our guys came to play," said UC coach Mark Dantonio. "It wasn't a mistake-free game by any means, but we came to play hard. If we can play with great effort and toughness, good things are going to happen."

The UC defense limited East Carolina to 203 yards and recorded six sacks against a team that had not allowed a sack in its two previous games.

"We were totally aware of that," said defensive end Trent Cole, who produced three of those sacks, including one for a safety after ECU had taken a 13-10 lead in the first half. "We were going to go out there and show them that they were going to give up some sacks."

But the key play of the game may have occurred on a punt play late in the third quarter. Playing in his first game at UC, punter Brian Steel dropped back to punt from his won 36 on fourth and 12.

The snap was off to his left and as he struggled to get off the kick, it appeared to be blocked by ECU's Tommie Bradley and recovered by the Pirates on the UC seven, with the Bearcats clinging to a 5-point lead.

But Bradley was called for running into the kicker and while it didn't give UC a first down, it enabled Steel to kick again and kept the Pirates from setting up shop so close to the UC goal line.

"He actually didn't block it," Steel said. "I tried to rugby punt it back toward the middle and just as it went off my foot, he hit me. I saw that he was running straight at me. When he hit me, I fell on the ground, trying to get the roughing call."

UC led, 24-13, after a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gino Guidugli (14-25 for 155 yards, one interception and one touchdown) to Hannibal Thomas with 5:42 left in the third quarter.

ECU quarterback James Pinkney threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Damarcus Fox on the Pirates' next possession to make it 24-19 after the failed 2-point conversion attempt.

Benton, who scored his first career touchdown in the second quarter on a 1-yard run, appeared to have scored another with 48 seconds left in the game, but dropped the ball before crossing the goal line.

He fell on the ball in the end zone, but the officials ruled it a fumble and gave UC possession on the ECU one. Guidugli took a knee three times to run out the clock.

"I tried to carry it with one hand across the goal line," Benton said, "and it slipped. My hand was wet. The next time I'll just tuck it under my arm and run it in."

---

E-mail bkoch@enquirer.com

CINCINNATI 24, EAST CAROLINA 19

Cincinnati71160-24
ECarolina31060-19

First Quarter

EC-FG Broadwell 36, 7:01.

C-Celek 10 pass from Guidugli (Lovell kick), 1:08.

Second Quarter

C-FG Lovell 25, 13:41.

EC-FG Broadwell 21, 8:40.

EC-Veal 5 pass from Pinkney (Broadwell kick), 8:05.

C-Safety, Pinkney tackled in end zone by Cole.

C-Benton 1 run (pass failed), 0:54.

Third Quarter

C-Thomas 5 pass from Guidugli (kick failed), 5:36.

EC-Fox 75 pass from Pinkney (run failed), 5:20.

A-29,332.

CEC
First downs2412
Rushes-yards57-21731-11
Passing155192
Comp-Att-Int14-25-110-25-0
Return Yards1060
Punts-Avg.7-35.95-31.8
Fumbles-Lost2-12-2
Penalties-Yards8-483-25
Time of Possession37:4422:16

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING-Cincinnati, Benton 25-127, Hall 20-98, Daniels 1-9, Jones 1-1, Jackson 1-0, Team 2-(minus 2), Glatthaar 1-(minus 7), Guidugli 6-(minus 9). East Carolina, Johnson 5-29, Townes 6-16, Brown 7-9, Veal 1-1, Fox 2-1, Pinkney 10-(minus 45).

PASSING-Cincinnati, Guidugli 14-25-1-155. East Carolina, Pinkney 10-25-0-192.

RECEIVING-Cincinnati, Jackson 4-48, Thomas 4-36, Celek 3-42, Murray 3-29. East Carolina, Fox 5-161, Veal 2-18, Rios 1-8, Johnson 1-8, Townes 1-(minus 3).




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