On Saturday, as part of college football week 5, Cincinnati Bearcats (2-1) take on Marshall Thundering Herd (2-1) in Huntington, West Virginia. These teams have quite a bit of history, recently playing two years ago (Saturday is the return game). They play a series ten years ago and they played two bowl games in the early 2000s.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and look back at the history between these two schools.
2017 - Part one of the home-and-home series
Saturday is the second part of the home-and-home series. The first game took place in 2017, in Luke Fickell’s first season as Bearcats Head Coach.
This game was a nightmare in every way for Cincinnati, kind of like that season. 2017 was a difficult 4-8 year for Luke Fickell in his first year as Head Coach as he tried to establish a new culture and wash away the stench of the previous regime.
The 2017 week 5 game started out great for Cincinnati after Kevin Mouhon forced a fumble on the second play from scrimmage. Cincinnati started their first drive on the Marshall 30 yard line, and on their second play Hayden Moore lost a fumble giving the ball right back. Marshall would then go 10 plays and score their first touchdown of the game.
From there, they never really looked back. The Bearcats offense never kicked into gear. If you don’t believe me, look at Cincinnati’s first half drive chart:
- Missed field goal
Yikes. It was a really, really rough first half.
Marshall took their 7-0 lead into the second quarter and hit a field goal at the start of the second to increase their lead to 10-0.
Marshall absolutely dominated the clock. Cincinnati had the ball for just 6:05 in the first half.
With the game already 10-0, Marshall put together a 10-play, 5 minute touchdown drive with two minutes to go. Cincinnati fumbled the ensuing kick off and Marshall would score from 15 yards out on their very next played, giving them two touchdowns in the finals two minutes of the half, taking a 24-0 lead into halftime.
In the first half, Cincinnati had 2 turnovers (lost fumbles), 1 missed field goal, and 2 three-and-outs. Marshall, had three drives that last 10 or more plays.
Cincinnati was able to put together some type of offense in the second half, but the score was never in doubt and Marshall won 38-21.
Cincinnati won a pair of games with Brian Kelly as Head Coach, first in Cincinnati in Kelly’s first year in 2007. And the following year in Huntington in 2008. Cincinnati won both games by an average score of 36-12.
Cincinnati won 40-12 in 2007, to improve to 4-0 on their way to their first 10 win season since 1951. Dustin Gruzta started at QB for Cincinnati, though Ben Mauk did play. Grutza threw 2 TDs, Mauk threw 1 and the Bearcats offense did not turn the ball over - something they need to avoid this Saturday. The three TD passes went to WR Marcus Barnett (2) and Connor Barwin (1). RBs Greg Moore and Jacob Ramsey each ran for touchdowns as well.
CB Mike Mickens (who is the current UC DB Coach) had an interception and recovered a fumble, which led to two of Cincinnati’s touchdowns.
Cincinnati won 33-10 in 2008, to improve to 4-1. Chazz Anderson started at quarterback for Cincinnati. Dustin Gruzta injured his leg a couple weeks prior against Oklahoma and Tony Pike suffered an injury the prior week vs Akron. It was Anderson’s first career start and he took every snap (ahead of Zach Collaros) and played with confidence, throwing for 158 yards and 2 TDs, while running for a third touchdown. Cincinnati led 16-3 at halftime and the game was never in doubt.
The Defensive Coordinator of Marshall in this game was Rick Minter, who coached Cincinnati from 1994-2003 (more on him below) and also spoke to us on the latest Down the Drive Podcast.
Oddly, there was a safety in the first quarter of both games (2007, 2008).
Bowl Game History
In 2000, Cincinnati lost the Motor City Bowl 25-14 to Marshall. Four years later, they got their payback in the Fort Worth Bowl.
Motor City Bowl
In 1997, former UC Head Coach Rick Minter led the Bearcats to their first bowl game in 47 years (won Humanitarian Bowl). Three years later, as runner ups in Conference USA, they returned to a bowl game facing the champions of the MAC, Marshall.
2000 was Marshall’s fourth consecutive year playing in the Motor City Bowl (3-1). Marshall QB Bryron Leftwich was the MVP of the game. Herd finished that season 8-5, after going 34-4 from 1997-1999 during their Motor City Bowl stretch.
Both Cincinnati touchdowns were scored by RB DeMarco McCleskey (who holds the single season UC rushing record at 1,361).
Fort Worth Bowl
2004 was an interesting season for college football because it was the last year of a long time conference alignment layout. For the Bearcats, it was their last season in C-USA, before moving to the Big East. For Marshall, it was their last year in the MAC, before making the move to C-USA. It was also Cincinnati’s first year with Mark Dantonio as the Head Coach. Dantonio, who was previously Ohio State’s Defensive Coordinator, replaced Rick Minter, after 10 years.
While Cincinnati was beginning a new coaching era, Marshall was ending one. Bob Pruett won 75% of his games from 1997-2004, but this bowl game was his final game after a 6-6 season.
Cincinnati trailed 14-10 at the end of the first quarter but QB Gino Guidugli (current QB Coach) threw 2 TDs in the second quarter - to TE Brent Celek and WR Earnest Jackson.
This was the school’s fourth bowl win all-time and helped set the tone for the transition to the Big East and for the success that would soon follow.
Oddly, like the 2007-2008 games above, both bowl games also had a safety.
From 1933-1938, these two schools played every year, playing 4 times in Cincinnati and 2 times in Huntington.
Cincinnati won the first four meetings (‘33-36), with the first two games being shutouts. They gave up just 20 points total. In 1937, Marshall got their first win, shutting out Cincinnati 28-0 and winning the next year 27-9.
They would meet one more time in Cincinnati in 1946, with Cincinnati winning 39-14. That 1946 season was the second under Head Coach Ray Nolting and was the first ever bowl game for the school, with Cincinnati beating Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl.