Thursday, October 18, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 41



Bearcats present tough challenge

By Tom Carpenter
Daily Cougar Staff

Still licking their wounds after being mauled 52-33 by the Memphis Tigers, the Cougar football team finds itself preparing for another catfight with the Cincinnati Bearcats.

The deceptive Bearcats team, 3-2 overall and 3-0 in Conference USA, struts into Robertson Stadium on Saturday to play the Cougars' cat's-paw for the UH homecoming celebration, just as it did two years ago. The Cougars defeated Cincinnati 23-20 in overtime at the 1999 homecoming game.

"The strength of their football team, I think, definitely is their offense," UH head coach Dana Dimel said. "They have three talented wide receivers and two very good running backs. They always have a solid offensive line and they're playing a true freshman quarterback who's responded and done a very nice job for them."

Bearcats head coach Rick Minter, in his eighth season at Cincinnati (37-46-1), has his team fighting to retain its surprising grip on first place in the conference thanks to the outstanding play of that true freshman quarterback, Gino Guidugli.

Guidugli's accomplishments include Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week honors after completing 31 of 41 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns against Army Sept. 8.

The freshman "phenom" leads C-USA in passing efficiency and completions and ranks second in total offense and points-responsible-for per game with 12. Guidugli tied a Cincinnati record with four touchdown passes against Tulane Oct. 6.

Junior wide receiver LaDaris Vann has been Guidubli's favorite target, snagging 38 passes for 410 yards and two touchdowns. Vann ranks No. 6 in the nation in catches and averages 82 yards per game.

The Bearcats field a young team that has 19 returning lettermen on both offense and defense, with five returning starters on each side of the ball.

Junior running back DeMarco McCleskey leads the Bearcat ground attack, galloping for 314 yards in five games.

Cincinnati climbed to the top of the C-USA standings by slipping past Army 27-24 at West Point, outscoring Tulane 46-33 in Cincinnati and surprising Alabama-Birmingham 31-17 in Birmingham, Ala.

The Bearcats have been real road warriors this season. The team is undefeated away from home and brings a school record six-game C-USA winning streak into Houston. The Bearcats' defense has recorded 18 sacks in five games. Junior defensive end Antwan Peek leads the Bearcats with five sacks.

"Their special teams last week were outstanding in the ball game against UAB and helped them win the football game," Dimel said. "Special teams will be a big part of what we're doing. Our special teams effort needs to be outstanding this week for our team to win this football game."

The Cougars must avoid falling into their fifth consecutive 10-0 to start a game if they're going beat a solid Cincinnati team.

"Our football team needs to find a way to get on the board early and get on the board first if we possibly can," Dimel said.

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