The 1969 Herd was in the midst of a 27-game non-winning streak. While it certainly is not at that level for Mark Snyder's third Herd squad, this marked five losses in a row, going back to last season, the first time since 1982, and the first time since 1977 the Herd has allowed at least 40 points three games in a row, losing to WVU (48-23), New Hampshire (48-35) and the Bearcats tonight. That 1977 Frank Ellwood-coached team gave up 389 points that year, the most allowed in school history, 35.7 points per game. The 2007 MU defense has allowed 167 points, 41.7 points per game thus far.
Ryland Wilson wrapped up UC quarterback Dustin Grutza in the end zone. Grutza was called for intentional grounding, which gave Marshall the safety. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
The Herd gave up 436 yards to the Bearcats on offense, 217 on the ground and 219 through the air on 20-of-27 passing by both quarterbacks of UC. The Bearcats had an amazing 40 first downs in the game (the MU record is 36, set at Western Carolina in 1987). Dustin Grutza hit 14-of-20 for 142 yards and two scores, while four backs put together a tremendous rushing attack that averaged 5.5 yards per carry. For the Herd, Bernard Morris played well again, hitting 20-of-30 passes, with the interception off of Emmanuel Spann's hands, and had 252 yards through the air to go with two touchdown passes. He also rushed for 34 net yards, while Darius Marshall led the Herd attack with 63 yards on seven carries, 9.0 yards per rush.
Courtney Edmonson hauled in this 4 yard TD catch from Bernard Morris in the second quarter against Cincinnati, cutting the Bearcats' lead to just 26-14 . photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Things looked a little brighter for the Herd when Marshall found the end zone to start the fourth period. Bernard Morris found Darius Passmore for a 33-yard touchdown when Passmore's man fell in coverage and the wide out was wide open. A two-point conversion, however, had Passmore false start, Morris' pass to Spann fail and Inman holding on the failed attempt to leave the score at 26-14 with 13:52 to play. Back came to ‘Cats, with Dustin Grutza back at quarterback for an ineffective Ben Mauk during the third quarter. Grutza hit passes for 16, 14, 10, 16 and seven yards, the last a touchdown toss to tight end Connor Barwin. UC regained and expanded the lead they had at half, up 19 points at 33-14 with 11:19 to play.
A great kick by Jake Rodgers forced Emmanuel Spann to let the ball bounce at the 14 and just return to the 18. Morris almost made a purse out of a pig's ear on third and long, scrambling away from four Bearcats but coming up one yard short of a first. Morris had a noticeable limp when he left the field, as he continues to battle turf toe. UC coach Brian Kelly called on sophomore back Jacob Ramsey to give Cincinnati some "fresh legs" and it paid off almost instantly. With two rushes for three yards each sandwiched by a Grutza keeper, an amazing play fake for 19 yards, the Bearcats and Ramsey were at the 42 of the Herd. On a sweep, Ramsey broke one tackler, out-ran three more and zig-zagged his way for a 42 yard touchdown to ice the game at 40-14.
At the start of the second half, MU controlled the ball for 7:46, but had no points to show. A drive that reached the UC 48 was backed up on two holds and a sack, plus Daniel Baldridge went to the sidelines at right tackle. John Inman, expected back for Memphis after injuring a foot versus New Hampshire, came in at right tackle. A 28-yard punt put UC at its own 35 to start the second half, but a holding call backed them up twice back to the 15-yard line.
Marshall got the ball back when Ashton Hall knifed through to block the punt of Kevin Huber. Marshall was first and ten at the UC 33, but two false starts (Brandon Campbell and Brian Leggett) back up the Herd, as did a two-yard loss on a pass to Darius Passmore and a two-yard sack of Morris. His long pass to Passmore was broken up, and Binswanger punted the ball to the UC 8-yard line. Marshall finally hit on a third down on the next drive, with Morris finding Spann for 24 yards and moving the ball inside UC territory at the 35-yard line. The conversion made the Herd 1-for-8 on third down on the night. The third quarter ended with the score unchanged, 26-8, in favor of Cincinnati.
The crowd was announced at 35,097, the first sell-out of Nippert Stadium in the era of 35,000 seats. About 3,500-to-4,000 Herd fans helped push the record number at a Cincinnati game, but a turnout of 30,000-plus Bearcat fans made sense at the first game at home with classes just started.
At the half, Cincinnati had 26 first downs to just eight for Marshall, and 258 yards of total offense to just 169 for the Herd. 85 of Marshall's came on the Herd's final drive of the second quarter, putting the first touchdown on the board when Morris found Courtney Edmonson in the back of the end zone to cut the UC lead to 26-8, where it stood at halftime.
UC quarterbacks were 13-of-17 for 147 yards and tow touchdowns in the first half. Tailback Greg Moore led all rushers at the intermission with five carries for 61 and a score. Morris was 11-of-18 passes with the inadvertent interception, passing for 144 of the Herd's 169 yards of offense. He was also the leading MU rusher with 25 yards.
Marshall scored first in the game, but two turnovers led to two touchdown for Cincinnati in the first half. Marshall opened the scoring when Ryland Wilson was tackling Grutza in the end zone after Phillip Gamble and C.J. Spillman downed a Anthony Binswanger punt on the one-yard line. Grutza attempted to throw away the ball, but was called for intentional grounding and the Herd was given a safety at the 7:22 mark of the first quarter. It was the first safety for MU since Michael "Kool-Aid" Owens had a sack of UC in the 2000 Motor City Bowl.
But on the free kick, Darius Marshall, who normally returns just kickoffs, mishandled the ball and Marshall took over at the 18-yard line. Morris hit Spann on a sideline route, but Spann lost the ball when hit by Haruki Nakamura. The ball was picked off in mid-air by Mike Mickens and UC took over in Marshall territory. Three plays later, tailback Greg Moore rambled 17 yards into the end zone and Cincinnati led 7-2.
Following a kickoff through the end zone, Doug Legursky snapped the ball past Morris into the end zone. Morris covered the ball and the Bearcats had a safety, running its lead to 9-2. Morris appeared to be looking to the ref to reset the ball, as the play clock was down to :15 before the Herd even left the sidelines. The free kick gave the Bearcats first and 10 at its own 44-yard line. In six plays, they drove to the 14, but pressure from Antawn Booker made the third down pass incomplete. Rodgers hit a 31 yard field goal to extend the ‘Cats lead to 12-2 with 2:27 left.
Another turnover set UC up in Marshall territory again, as Kelvin Turner fumbled after gaining a first down at the 46-yard line, recovered by Mickens. It would take only five plays to get to the end zone, with Grutza hitting slot end Marcus Bennett for the final ten yards and Cincinnati jumped to a 19-2 lead just five seconds into the second quarter.
Marshall finally dented the UC end of the field, but saw second quarter drives die at the 42 and 41 yard lines. Great punts by Binswanger backed up Cincinnati and they started at the 14 and the eight yard line in the second quarter after scoring early. But Cincinnati inserted Ben Mauk, the transfer from Wake Forest, and backed up at the eight-yard line, Mauk drove the Bearcats 92 yards in just 3:38. The final 27 yards was covered by a Mauk to Bennett for his second score.
Marshall got some energy from a 45-yard kickoff return by Spann, even when it was called back to the 15 for a block in the back by Small. Morris found Passmore for a 38 yard gain up the sidelines on first down. Morris then hit E.J. Wynn for 11, then Turner for 28 yards, down to the eight yard line.
Following Small being stuffed on first down, Morris threw for Passmore in the end zone, and he was interfered with by Nakamura. Morris ran into Daniel Baldridge, the Herd's right tackle on first down, losing three, but found dmonson in the end zone for a touchdown. Marshall went in trailing the Bearcats, 26-8, at the half.
NOTES: Over 1,000 Marshall fans, from the Cincinnati area and from the Huntington area, congregated at the Cincinnati soccer stadium and track for a pre-game tailgate, with cooking by Smokin' Thunder. Guests included former Marshall head coach Bobby Pruett, former Herd assistant and current Huntington businessman Red Dawson and some of the players he and Jack Lengyel coached and recruited for the 1971 Young Thundering Herd. The Young Thundering Herd, a team of freshmen, walk-ons, transfers and sophomores from the 1970 freshman team were part of the story of the movie "We Are Marshall," out on DVD from Warner Bros. this week...The Marshall crowd was estimated at about 4,000 at the nearly sold-out, 35,000 seat Nippert Stadium. About four rows of bleachers directly behind the Marshall team had UC tarps over them, keeping a buffer between fans and visitors, but costing the Bearcats about 750 seats...The UC band sprints down the student section bleachers in the bowled end zone onto the field. It was also band day at the stadium, and even the "Marching Thunder" of Marshall was in attendance. The Marshall band director, Steve Barnett, directed the UC band in the national anthem. When team ran out of tunnel, they ran to far end of field and high fived the students, who were back for their first game with classes starting just two weeks ago...It was also "Ring of Honor" night, as UC honored a baker's dozen players from its history. Some of the more prominent were Jim O'Brien, who won Super Bowl V with a field goal for the Baltimore Colts over the Dallas Cowboys; Gino Guidugli, who beat the Herd in the Fort Worth bowl with a broken hand; and Jonathan Ruffin, who was kept on the sidelines during the Herd's 25-14 win over the Bearcats in the 2000 Motor City Bowl. MU gave up a safety at Tennessee last season.