It was his birthday present.
However, on defensive back D’Juan Brown’s 23rd birthday Saturday, it was Cincinnati that got a birthday surprise. It was a game-changing play in the third-quarter against a team he’s had on his mind since Nov. 20, 2004.
In last season’s 45-23 loss to Cincinnati, Brown broke his arm in the second quarter, sidelining him for the last two games. But with eight minutes left in the third quarter on Saturday, quarterback Dustin Grutza underthrew two wide receivers to allow Brown an “easy pick that came right to me.”
Cincinnati coach Mark Dantonio claimed the play was poorly run from the snap.
“I didn’t know what was happening, because we were screaming for a hold,” Dantonio said. “It happened so quick. The (receivers) were both bunched up, the defenders were all bunched up; the one guy was supposed to run an out-cut, and then the throw was poor.”
The 26-yard return put the Bulls up 17-7, in a play that Brown called “a little payback.”
“It’s really something that just happened,” said Brown, who has two interceptions on the year. “I was waiting on it, waiting on it, and whoop, there it is.
“This was a payback. I was watching film all week, trying to figure out how to get one against them, and it paid off today.”
Brown’s interception puts him in a five-way tie for the team lead, but co-defensive coordinator
Rick Kravitz knew the takeaway was extra special for Brown.
“That play was huge,” said Kravitz, whose defense has 11 takeaways in the past three games. “We were upset we gave up the score before halftime, and when D’Juan made that play, it kind of picked up the whole team.
“I think it was real special to him because all week – all season he’s had this game circled on his calendar. It was a team he wanted to play against because of his injury, and when he got a chance to do this, I knew it lit him up.”
Safety Johnnie Jones agreed that he was glad to see his fellow senior celebrate his birthday with a pick.
“We know we got to score on defense; we say it on the sidelines,” said Jones, who had six tackles in the game. “That interception was huge for him. It was his birthday and he was like a little kid opening a present.
“He said, ‘It was bad for me for last year against this team. I got to set a tone.’ I told him, ‘Man, just play your game. It’ll happen.’ And it did. I’m so happy for him, too.”
The defense received some gifts as well.
On the Brown interception and the fumble recovery by defensive end Tim Jones, the Bulls now have 11 takeaways and have given up only one in the 27-0 win over Syracuse on Oct. 12.Kravitz claimed it was not only the defense doing its job, but the offense as well.
“It’s twofold,” Kravitz said. “One, it’s the offense, where they score points and (make the other team) throw long and put them in situations where they have to score. That makes it easier for us because then you can do things to disrupt (their) offense and make things happen.
“But I just think our guys play hard and work hard, and we’re just making plays because of it.”