Mountaineers Escape Furious Fourth Quarter Rally

CINCINNATI, OH -- A strange thing happened in Cincinnati on Saturday evening, on the way to a dominating Mountaineer win. Someone forgot to tell UC to lie down and die.

Gino Guigudli and DeMarco McCleskey led UC on a furious fourth quarter comeback against the Mountaineers, and were poised to tie the game at 35 all with one generous tick left on the Nipper Stadium clock, when UC's school record holder for field goals in a career careened a 49 yarder, which had plenty of distance, off the left upright as time expired to give West Virginia a much needed win to keep their bowl hopes alive.

The furious fourth quarter rally overshadowed what was a dominating performance for three quarters by the Mountaineers. Avon Coborne rushed 30 times for 193 yards and two touchdowns, Quincy Wilson added another 9 carries for 88 yards, and Rasheed Marshall ran 12 more times for 44 yards and two touchdowns, along with 189 yards passing and a TD as the Mountaineers jumped out to a 35-17 lead after three quarters.

The game didn't start out so well for the Mountaineers, who turned the ball over on their very first offensive play, when Miquelle Henderson, 8 catches for 105 yards and a score, fumbled the ball after a 13 yard catch and run. WVU held UC to a field goal, and were quickly down 3-0.

The Mountaineers quickly responded with a 10 play, 80-yard drive, which ended with a strong run by Coborne from five yards out to give WVU a 7-3 lead. Rasheed Marshall hit Henderson for 17 yards on 3rd and four from the WVU 26 to keep the drive alive, but the key play was Coborne's 20 yard scamper that started between the tackles, and ended with a nice spin move on an air grabbing UC defender that took the Mountaineers to the Cincinnati 23 yard line.

UC responded quickly with a 7 play 80 yard drive that ended when Guidugli hit tight end Dennis Hart, on his first career reception, for a 33 yard td, to give UC the lead right back 10-7.

Not to be outdone, the Mountaineers immediately went on a 7 play, 72-yard drive, capped off by another 5 yard Avon Coborne run to give WVU the lead back at 14-10. WVU didn't face a third down in the series, until the final play. Coborne had another excellent run to spring the Mountaineers as he ran for 31 yards to the UC 32 on what was a 2nd down and 2. Marshall ran ten yards on a QB draw, and then Phil Braxton picked up 21 yards on a reverse to take the ball down to the UC 11. Quincy Wilson ran six yards to the five, and after an incompletion, Coborne stuck it in with a nice block from Braxton at the one.

UC wasted no time with their answer to this score, as Tedric Harwell returned the kickoff 71 yards to the WVU 12 yard line. Harwell was bottled up at the UC 25, and it appeared that Angel Estrada had him wrapped up. But Estrada decided to try to strip the ball, and Harwell escaped the crowd and busted loose before Lewis Daniels ran him down. Four plays later, Guidugli dove into the pile for a one yard score, and put UC back in front 17-14.

Not to be outdone, Phil Braxton took the kickoff at the goal line, and darted up the right side for 50 yards, including a leap over Ruffin before Thaddeus Lewis brought him down at the 50-yard line. The quarter would end with WVU committing an illegal procedure, which left them with 2nd and six to start the quarter. After two quick Coborne runs that got WVU ten yards and a first down, Marshall hit Henderson streaking down the right sideline for a 36 yard touchdown pass to give WVU the lead for good at 21-17.

UC was forced to punt for the first time on their next possession, as Tim Love and Grant Wiley combined on a sack, which the official scorers mysteriously called a QB draw and no sack, and credited the tackle to Darnell Glover, who was not in the game. Brian King broke up a pass on third and 14 before Chet Ervin came on to kick a 44-yard punt with no return.

WVU again marched right down the field on UC, but the drive stalled at the UC 9 yard line as Zach Norton stopped Phil Braxton on his second reverse of the day, aided by Braxton's face mask, for no gain to give WVU a 4th and seven from the nine. UC was offsides before the Todd James' field goal attempt, moving the Mountaineers to the UC four yard line, but James' only field goal attempt of the day was blocked by UC's classy Antawn Peek.

WVU got the ball back three plays later as Jermaine Thaxton forced Hart to fumble after a nice catch at the WVU 41, and Lance Frazier pounced on the ball. Twelve plays and 59 yards later, Marshall ran over right guard for nine yards and his first score of the day, and the Mountaineers extended their lead to 28-17. The half would end that way, after the Mountaineers forced another punt three plays later.

The Mountaineers started the 3rd quarter like the ended the second, forcing UC into their third punt in as many possessions. James Davis sacked Guidugli on first and ten, after Guidugli had hit Hart again for 21 yards to move into WVU territory.

The Mountaineers then mounted another long drive, but this one would not produce any points, as a horrendous personal foul penalty called on the Mountaineers cost them a 1st and ten from the UC 34 yard line, and instead, gave them a 2nd and 20 from the UC 49. WVU continued to self-destruct after a Marshall incompletion as they committed another false start penalty pushing them to 3rd and 25 from their own 46 yard line. Then Mark Fazzolari knelt down to pick up a low snap and got off a tremendous punt, but his knee was down, resulting in a 13 yard loss, and a UC first down at the WVU 33 yard line.

The Mountaineer defense was up to the task, forcing a three and out, for negative five yards. Guidugli was injured on 4th and 10 as he threw incomplete under heavy pressure, but a delay of game gave UC the opportunity to punt the ball away. Guidugli suffered a bruised knee, and returned to the game on UC's next possession. West Virginia then mounted their most impressive drive of the evening, as they turned in a 14 play, 80 yard drive, culminating in a two yard keeper by Marshall that extended WVU's lead to 35-17. Marshall hit Braxton for 19 yards on first and twenty after a holding call, when Braxton left Blue Adams spinning like a top at the five yard line. Marshall snuck in on the next play.

UC then started to gain some momentum. Alternating McClesky and Harwell, UC moved down the field with 8 plays for 46 yards, but McCleskey fumbled at the WVU 19 yard line. Ben Collins recovered for the Mountaineers.

WVU was forced into their second punting situation of the game, and again the special teams broke down. This time Tye Keith retuned a 42 yard Fazzolari punt 39 yards back to the WVU 17 yard line. Three plays later, McCleskey dove over the pile from two yards out, and UC was in business at 35-24.

West Virginia was forced into their second straight three and out, and again UC received excellent field position as Tye returned Fazzolari's punt nine yards to the UC 41. Eight plays later, UC scored on a Guidugli eight yard pass to Tye in the back of the endzone over true freshman Adam Jones. Guidugli kept the ball on the option for the two point conversion, and UC had cut the WVU lead to 35-32.

WVU received a big boost from Coborne, who burst over the left side for 36 yards on the first play to move into UC territory at the 40 yard line. Three plays later, WVU was forced to punt. Fazzolari dropped a punt out of bounds nicely at the UC six yard line.

UC would move the ball out to the 37 yard line, but turn it over on downs. The key play on the drive was King's inability to haul in an interception on a pass breakup on 2nd and seven from the UC 32. Guidugli would thrown incomplete to Jon Olinger on 4th and two with 2:50 left on the clock, and the Mountaineers looked to be in business, as UC had only one timeout remaining. However, WVU could do nothing with the ball, and after gaining but five yards in three plays, Fazzolari again did his job, pinning the Bearcats at their own 10 yard line with just 51 seconds left in the game.

Guidugli again showed why he is considered to be such a good quarterback, as he completed five quick passes to move UC down to the WVU 32 with one second left in the game. Ruffin, who has made 44 field goals in his career at UC, and was kicking them from 60 in pre-game warm-ups, then hooked one off the left upright, which sent the Mountaineer faithful, who nearly outnumbered the UC fans in the crowd of 28,806, into a frenzy. The Mountaineers then made their way over to the fans who made the trip from West Virginia and serenaded them with "Country Roads" as the UC fans made their way to the exits.

The Mountaineers finished the day with 27 first downs, rushing for a staggering 334 yards, with 523 yards of total offense. WVU also won the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 32:05, to UC's 27:55. WVU was 6 of 13 on third down conversions (46.15%). UC finished with 21 first downs and 412 yards of total offense. Guidugli was 20-30 for 275 yards and two touchdowns and also had a rushing touchdown. Dema McCleskey ran 24 times for 118 yards and a score.

The Mountaineers are off this weekend, before facing the East Carolina Pirates at home on September 28. UC hosts Ohio State at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati next Saturday.

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