In a wild game in the Mid-America Conference, Ohio put itself right back into the conversation with a 37-36 defeat of 2-0 Cincinnati.
UC had just vaulted itself into the lead in the MAC South, only to be undone by a hard-charging OU outfit.
"It was back and forth for most of the game," said senior prop Jack Nece. "A lot of Cincinnati’s scores came off small mistakes on our end, along with good line breaks. As a team, we relied heavily on our fitness and chemistry. We had been saying all week that this match was win or go home, simple as that."
UC was coming off a nice victory over Louisville that put the Bearcats at 2-0. Ohio was fully aware that this would be a make or break game.
"With that in mind, we had an excellent week of practice coming up to the match," said Nece.
Cincinnati was very strong in the scrums, but Ohio defended the UC maul well, and showcased some solid work in the backline and using the forwards to attack the interior channels.
(Nece kicks the kick - Jim George photo)
OU scored in the opening minute, UC replied, but then Ohio scored two tries to lead 17-7. The teams traded tries, and UC scored just before the break to make it a 22-21 Ohio lead. The Bearcats then kept it up, scoring twice in the second half to lead 31-22. Wing Andy Sherwood's second try got Ohio some momentum, and after Cincinnati scored again to lead 36-27, flyhalf Duncan Bauer went over for the try that, with the conversion, got OU within two at 36-34.
Time for the big drama, as Ohio worked its way into the UC 22, and earned a penalty. With the regular kicker nursing an ankle injury, coach Jamie Miller pointed to Nece, who hadn't kicked in a game since high school.
"You can imagine I was quite nervous," said Nece. "That was my first kick in competition since my senior year of high school. I practice a bit during warmups of practice so I was confident."
(Jim George photo)
Nece slotted the kick, and the game ended with Ohio up 37-36. Along with Sherwood and Bauer, fullback Hayden George and No. 8 Garrett Easterly touched down for Ohio, as OU did just enough to tie Cincinnati in the standings going into the final division game of the season.