Cincinnati Survives WMU Rally
by Mike Mitchell
Cincinnati blew all of a 24-0 lead, the beat Western Michigan 27-24 on Kevin Lowell's 33-yard field goal with 6:11 to play in the International Bowl.
Western Michigan missed a game-tying 51-yard field goal with just over a minute left.
Brian Kelly was victorious in his debut with Cincinnati as he became the first head coach to beat the same team twice in a season while coaching two different teams. Kelly coached Central Michigan to a 31-7 regular season victory over the Broncos. He left the Chippewas, three days after they beat Ohio in the MAC to championship game, to take the job vacated by Mark Dantonio at Cincinnati. Dantonio accepted the head coaching position at Michigan State to replace the fired John L. Smith.
Kelly's chief assistant, Jeff Quinn, and some of his other staff helped coach Central Michigan to its 41-24 Motor City Bowl win over Middle Tennessee before joining Kelly at Cincinnati.
The Bearcat win allowed the Big East to complete the bowl season with a perfect 5-0 record, the best of any conference.
Cincinnati started the game fast, taking a 7-0 lead on John Bowie's 26-yard return of a Ryan Cubit pass on the Broncos first possession of the game.
The Bearcats added two 21-yard touchdown passes from Nick Davila to Dominick Goodman on its next two possessions, and a 37-yard Lovell field goal on its fourth. With 10:24 still left in the first half, the game looked like a blowout.
But, this has been the bowl season of comebacks and trick plays. Western Michigan began their rally on the first play of their next possession when, off of a reverse, E.J. Biggers teamed up with Jamarko Simmons for a 76-yard touchdown pass. Momentum shifted and, after WMU forced a Cincinnati punt, Cubit completed a 6-play, 56-yard drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Herb Martin.
Western Michigan closed to with 24-17 on a Nate Myers' 30-yard field goal with 7 seconds left in the half. That score was set up by Matt Ludeman's interception of a Davila pass at the Bearcats' 19-yard line.
The teams fought a scoreless and turnover-plagued third quarter, the most damaging of which was a Davila fumble when he was sacked at the Bronco 12-yard line after the Bearcats had driven to a 3rd-and-goal at the 3.
Western Michigan had lost the ball on the previous series on Cubit's second interception of the game.
The fourth quarter began with more of the same as a second consecutive Cincinnati series ended on a Davila turnover when Bronco linebacker Paul Tithof batted and intercepted a pass at Cincinnati 47-yard line. Brandon West scored six plays later on a 7-yard touchdown run and the extra point tied the game at 24-24.
Cincinnati fumbled the ensuing kick-off but recovered it at its own 8-yard line. The Bearcats then regrouped offensively and, spurred by two Butler Benton runs that gained a total of 41 yards, drove right down the field before stalling at the Bronco 16. Lovell then connected on the 33-yard field goal for what proved to be the game-winning points.
The debut International Bowl was played in Toronto at Rogers Centre, a multi-use facility that hosts Major league baseball's Blue Jays and the Canadian Football League's Argonauts.
The Broncos and Bearcats had previously played in a combined total of just nine bowl games. Western Michigan hadn't played in a bowl game since the 1988 California Bowl and are still winless in three bowl trips. Cincinnati evened its bowl record at 4-4.