It's hard to believe, but I realized this morning that it's been nine years today (9/8) since I watched one of the all-time great games in Bearcat football history.
The scene was West Point, where UC played Army. Starting QB Adam Hoover (who nearly led the Bearcats to an upset of Purdue at Nippert in the opening game) went down on a play against the Cadets and didn't get up. The back-up QB was a true freshman from Highlands High School in Kentucky, Gino Guidugli.
What happened next was one of the greatest performances I've witnessed at a UC football game (I witnessed 166 straight first hand as a member of the radio team and I've seen them all in one form or another since 1994).
For the record, the first play signaled in by QB coach Jeff Filkovski with Rick Minter watching, was a QB run. From there, Gino's rushing day was over but he put up numbers in his debut that most quarterbacks would dream of: 31-41 for 311 yards and three touchdowns.
And that, was in just a hair over three quarters.
The winning touchdown, with UC down 21-17 with :07 on the clock was a 12-yard strike right into the gut of Tye Keith that won the game and sent the handful of Bearcat fans sitting in the stands near the Hudson River into a frenzy.
The call, from Dan Hoard was one of his best, "Gino Guidugli is a miracle worker!!" It still rings in my ears today.
From there, Guidugli was the quarterback and was a four-year starter that led the Bearcats to three bowls in his four years which ended with a win and an MVP trophy at the Fort Worth Bowl.
As for the winning touchdown to Tye Keith? It's in the Top 10 of the best Bearcat plays of the last decade. (At least, according to this site I used to write for. Yeah, I know, there's two #3s, someone didn't transcribe it right. You get the drift.)
So, I started this day out with the intention of writing about someone on the Bearcat defense, but I couldn't get the date out of my mind.
The other story of this game is that I was in charge of retrieving our rented van to pull up to Michie Stadium to load the radio gear back in after the game. If you're not familiar with West Point, they obviously have a lot of security in force on game day. You essentially come in one way up a hill and depart the other. There is no "gray" in this directive.
When I was leaving the lot where we had parked the van, I noticed some "daylight" and saw that if I could go the other direction for about 100 yards, we'd have the van in place and could make for a quick getaway. Quick getaways were necessary in those days as the van was part of a caravan of buses and local law enforcement that would escort you to the nearby airport to depart. If you missed departure time, it wasn't unusual for the then-Assistant AD Paul Klaczak to depart without you.
Knowing this, I tried to make the maneuver to "go upstream" if you will in a short cut. Well, let me tell you this, when an armed guard comes at you with a stern look and an order that you "cease moving and redirect your vehicle", you don't take it as a suggestion.
With a hovering deadline to get loaded up (and thank the Lord UC won, as losses often moved that deadline ahead) my duty at that point was to depart the mountain that is West Point and then re-enter by heading directly up the hill on the opposite road. Then, I had to rely on my gift of persuasion for the MP to allow me access back to retrieve our gear and the crew of Jim Kelly and Chuck Ingram (Dan Hoard traveled separately).
Thankfully, we logistically made it happen and made the trip successfully to the Newburgh airport to return to Cincinnati.
We thought THAT security was tight.
Well, as the history books show, three days later our country came under attack on 9/11 and New York City is only some 45 minutes to an hour away. West Point was on lockdown. It kind of put it all in perspective for us as we talked about it later. Those brave and polite Cadets that were greeting us non-stop with "yessirs and nosirs" were on heightened alert.
A safe guess says that many of those young men and women were deployed in the ensuing conflict. Sadly, you know someone at that football game was lost.
Hopefully, many of them are back or maybe still serving, but can remember innocent things like football games and forget the destruction that 9/11 represents in so many lives.
As we prepare for Saturday's game on the 11th against Indiana State, I'll be thinking of both occasions that remain vivid in my memory.