The 2007 meeting. (GoBearcats.com)
The Bearcats finally return home for the first time in nearly a month this Saturday and Marshall will be the opponent. The Bearcats and Thundering Herd have faced off 12 times in their history, with the Bearcats notching eight wins. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the notable games in the series:
(Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/07/1906)
October 6, 1906 — Cincinnati 0, Marshall 0
The Bearcats were absolute garbage in 1906. They were so bad that I wrote a short post about that team last year. The high point of that season was in Week 1 when the ‘Cats faced Marshall. Marshall was actually pretty good in 1906. They shut out their first four opponents and allowed just five points all season en route to a 4–0–1 record.
The Bearcats held them to a scoreless tie — the only team Marshall was unable to defeat that year. The Enquirer headline (above) was not amused by the feat.
London Gant rumbles ahead at Nippert Stadium. (UC Libraries)
November 3, 1934 — Cincinnati 7, Marshall 0
The Bearcats clamped down Marshall in the first homecoming game in school history. The game was cold and muddy, and the Bearcats consistently stalled in the red zone. Things were scoreless at halftime.
London Gant — the second black player in program history — fumbled in the second half but later conducted “a personal touchdown march” for the game’s only score.
This meeting was the second in an annual series lasting six years. Four of the six games were played in Clifton. The Bearcats took the first four before the Thundering Herd got their first wins in the series by taking the final two.
October 5, 1946 — Cincinnati 39, Marshall 14
In their first meeting since Marshall won in Clifton in 1938, the Bearcats made short work of the hapless Herd. Mike Graham, “Red” Dougherty, Alkie Richards, and Roger Stephens scored for the red and black.
It was a three-sport sweep for the Bearcats that year, as they also beat Marshall in baseball and downed the Herd’s undefeated basketball team, serving them their first loss in Huntington in three years.
In football, it would be the final meeting between the schools for 54 years.
DeMarco McCleskey leaps over the line, scores, celebrates (Steven M. Herppich)
December 27, 2000 — Marshall 25, Cincinnati 14
In the 2000 Motor City Bowl in Detroit, the Thundering Herd dealt the Bearcats their first bowl loss in 49 years.
The Bearcats played a sloppy game, atypical for the craft team they were in 2000. They built a reputation for takeaways and special teams. Against Marshall, they were even in the turnover department and botched a snap on a field goal before halftime that kept the Herd within arm’s reach at the break.
The Bearcats didn’t score in the second half after their last-ditch effort fell flat in the red zone when a penalty turned a 4th & 1 into a 4th & 6 and Cincinnati was unable to convert to keep their hopes alive.
The Bearcats got revenge four years later, and haven’t let Marshall beat them since.
December 23, 2004 — Cincinnati 32, Marshall 14
In the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl, the Bearcats squared up with Marshall nearly four years to the day after their meeting in Detroit. This time the ‘Cats were ready.
Cincinnati scored first when they returned a blocked punt for a touchdown early. Marshall would trade a Bearcat field goal for two touchdowns to hold a 14–10 lead after the opening quarter. The Bearcats body slammed the Herd after that. QB Gino Guidugli threw touchdown passes to Brent Celek and Earnest Jackson in the second quarter. The Bearcats tacked on two field goals and a safety in the fourth quarter to make a 32–14 final score.
September 22, 2007 — Cincinnati 40, Marshall 14
A sold-out crowd at Nippert Stadium saw the Bearcats throw the gauntlet down upon Marshall. The game itself wasn’t really remarkable. It pushed the Bearcats to 4–0 as the Herd fell to 0–4. It was a good team beating a bad team. Marcus Barnett grabbed a couple touchdown passes. I dunno.
However, looking back through the recent resurgent years of the football program, this game has always stuck out to me. I don’t really know why, but I think this turned into a landmark night for Bearcat football. 2006 was the first season that put Cincinnati back on the map, but 2007 was the full arrival. It was the first year under Brian Kelly and the first 10-win season in 56 years. In hindsight, I think the Marshall game may have been the first time the fan base realized Cincinnati football was big-time and acted like it.
10 years and eight days later, there are similarities to this game. Nippert will host a game under the lights against the Thundering Herd, the stadium will be sold out, and a packed house will come expecting to see a Bearcat win that can help prove to the college football world — and themselves — that things are right on track.