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.