The Rival Review

This week: Cincinnati
Record: 4-3 (2-2 in C-USA)
Interesting Fact: UC has the nation’s fifth oldest football team.

It’s fitting that Friday night’s game between USF and Cincinnati will be on a night associated with the strange and unnatural since it will feature two teams whose offenses have put on something of a horror show throughout the 2003 season. Both teams enter the game with identical 4-3 records and 2-2 marks in Conference USA.

Just as Bulls fans have been scratching their heads over their team’s inconsistent play this year, Cincinnati fans have been troubled by the Bearcats’ up-and-down season as well. Coach Rick Minter has taken Cincinnati to a school record three consecutive bowl games, but this year’s squad can’t seem to figure out if it’s another legitimate bowl team, or if it has reverted back to the doormat form of past Cincinnati teams.

The Bearcats looked great against East Carolina, got a gutsy victory against West Virginia and nearly knocked off C-USA co-leader Southern Miss. But the Bearcats also needed three overtimes to beat Temple, got blown out by UAB and needed a fourth quarter comeback to beat winless Army last weekend.

Part of the blame for Cincinnati’s inconsistency goes to the offense. It’s not that the unit has been bad — averaging 374 yards per game, good for sixth in C-USA — but the passing game has shown no life at all. Junior quarterback Gino Guidugli broke out with an outstanding freshman season two years ago and has a huge arm, but he has yet to perform at the same level since. Guidugli’s only completing just more than 50 percent of his passes and is throwing for an average of just 185 yards per game. Bearcats fans expect more from the prized recruit, especially after his outstanding rookie year in 2001.

The graduation of last year’s star receivers, Jon Olinger and LaDaris Vann, also has hurt the passing attack, leading to backup quarterback George Murray switching to wideout and becoming the team’s leading receiver.

Picking up the slack for Guidugli and the pass offense has been a solid running game. Junior tailback Richard Hall has run wild in his six games, compiling 666 yards. Redshirt freshman Derick Eddington has also been solid in a backup role.

Cincinnati has been more successful on the other side of the ball, much like USF. The Bearcats 76.4 rushing yards allowed per game leads C-USA, and Cincinnati’s 309 total yards allowed per game ranks No. 2 in the conference behind only USF.

Defensive end Trent Cole leads the Bearcats and is having an All-American caliber season. Cole leads the team with 65 tackles, 13 of which went for losses. The junior is strong, fast and seems to be everywhere on the field. Hard-hitting safety Doug Monaghan is the rock of the secondary, and Jamar Enzor leads the linebacker corps.

Compiled by Oracle correspondent Jason Davis