Okay, now it’s time to reveal some of my favorite college games I have seen at Nippert Stadium (I don’t use the term “the nip” because I am the anti-cool). My first game was in 1975 at the old Riverfront Stadium (sounds kind of dated doesn’t it?) When the Bearcats played nationally-ranked Maryland. Brief history lessons to some of our younger readers in the 1970s the ‘Cats had to play some or all of their home games downtown because Nippert was being renovated. And also Maryland for years was a national power a long time ago, not the perennial doormats they are now.
The Bearcats, heavy underdogs as I recall, played the Terrapins very tough but wound up losing a 21-19 heartbreaker. I had a blast. Seeing the band run down the stairs for the first time was flat-out awesome!!! From then on I would ask my father that I wanted to go anytime his schedule would permit it. My next game was in 1976 or 1977 when nationally-ranked Temple came into Nippert and we won (yes younger readers, Temple used to be nationally-ranked as well)!!! That I believe was my first game at Nippert, and I love it even more than the first one because the venue was smaller and more intimate. As much fun as I had, that was the last UC game I would see for more than 20 years. School, work commitments and other things going on prevented me from going to a college game.
That all changed in 1999 when Ron Dayne came to town. My dad and I had a Saturday free and he said let’s go down to Clifton and see the future Heisman trophy winner and Rose Bowl MVP. For those who can remember we won 17-12 in one of the biggest upsets of the year. Dayne was magnificent, gaining 231 yards in 28 carries. His backup, Michael Bennett (who also played in the NFL) ran wild as well. We had no answer for them. Wisconsin kept committing costly penalties and made others errors and we capitalized. Indeed, their go ahead touchdown was called back on a false start penalty and I believe Dayne fumbled at the goal line. It was an amazing win. To watch the students storm the field and carry the goal posts out on Vine Street is one of my cherished memories.
To this day Dayne is the only Heisman trophy winner I saw in person. He was a stud, as was Bennett. Those teams headed in opposite directions after the game. Wisconsin I believe didn’t lose again and won the Big Ten and Rose Bowl. UC finished 3-8 that year and is still one of the most baffling teams I have ever witnessed. They started the year losing to then 1-AA Troy State at home, beat Kent and then Wisconsin and only won one more game that year. That was the Victory Bell over Miami 52-42. Miami was nationally-ranked that year and had record breaking running back Travis Prentiss, who set a number of NCAA records that year. The Bearcats had some real talent on offense and defense and a solid kicking game, but somehow it did not translate to wins. The next year the basically same core of guys won enough to play in the Motor City Bowl the next year.
Well it’s suffice to say that that got me hooked and I didn’t miss another home game for the next 7 years. It was fun, it really was.
That 1999 and 2000 teams had Deontay Kenner at QB and one of my favorite UC players ever in Center Doug Rosfeld, a local product who went to Moeller. He was a rare TWO year captain who played his butt off every snap, whether the team was playing well or not and if they were playing in front of 10,000 in Clifton or 100,000 at Ohio State. 2000 was the year I first saw Army play in person. That was when they were in C-USA for football only and it used to be a league game. To sit next to the Army brass was quite a humbling experience, and we showed them a courtesy we really didn’t show any other visiting fans (I think the reader can figure out why). UC won easily, but I remember the Cadets removing their helmets and singing their fight song to their crowd after the game. It was very moving, and it’s one of the great traditions of College Football. Wow, this has really revealed some warm memories. UC football is great.
My next installment will be the Purdue game of 2001. This was my all-time favorite Bearcat Gino Guidugli’s freshman year, but only one true freshman started that game for the ‘Cats, and it wasn’t him. Know who it is? Stay tuned, I will reveal it in my next installment.