As a play-by-play announcer, I'm often asked, "What's the best game that you've ever called?"
Easiest question ever.
Perhaps my answer will eventually change, but I seriously doubt it. It was the game that had everything.
For starters, the stakes were astronomically high as the Bearcats were 11-0, ranked fifth in the country, and still in contention for a national championship. With a win,
Then you have the atmosphere. It was a frigid and snowy December afternoon with 63,387 fans in attendance - including the largest contingent of Bearcat fans to ever travel to a regular season road game.
And finally, there was the game itself.
I'll admit it; I thought the Bearcats were toast when they fell behind 31-10 in the second quarter. But when Mardy Gilyard returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown with 70 seconds left in the first half, the 'Cats - like Frankenstein's monster - were ALIVE (you can watch Mardy's return here).
"Obviously when you get down by 21, panic starts to set it," said safety Drew Frey. "That's when you have to rely on each other. There were still more than 30 minutes left in the game and to be honest, it had everything to do with momentum. When Mardy ran that kick back before halftime, we were able to slowly shift the momentum and things just went from there."
"We never felt like we were out of it," said wide receiver Armon Binns. "We just felt like we were shooting ourselves in the foot, but we knew that we could get it right."
"We were down by a lot of points and nobody panicked," said running back Isaiah Pead. "We felt like our brotherhood was so tight that it couldn't be broken."
Still, the Bearcats never had a lead until there were 33 seconds to go when Tony Pike hit Armon Binns with a 29-yard touchdown pass that tied the score and gave Jake Rogers the opportunity to kick the game-winning extra point (you can watch Pike to Binns here).
"I can't remember the name of the play," Pike told me this week. "We went up and checked the play at the line of scrimmage and they went into a man-to-man defense. The safety had been cheating toward Mardy's side all day and as a quarterback and receiver, that's the kind of thing that you talk about on the sideline. Once we saw them single up into man-to-man, I made eye contact with Armon and he checked his route into a simple fade. He did a great job beating his guy off the line of scrimmage and I just kind of put it out there for him."
"Every time I watch it, I kind of get chills," said Binns. "I just remember all of the feelings from that game. I remember how excited we were and I can remember that whole play so vividly."
The Pike-to-Binns touchdown pass has to rank as the greatest moment in UC football history.
"Being from Cincinnati my whole life and going down to the games with my grandpa and family growing up, to have your name associated with a play of that caliber is something special and something that I'm going to carry with me for the rest of my life," said Pike.
"It's a blessing to know that I was able to make my mark and that I'll be remembered at the school for a long time," said Binns.
So yes, it's the best game that I've ever had the privlege to broadcast - but what about the Bearcats? Best game you've ever played in?
"Easily," said Drew Frey. "No question. I don't think words can describe it. That's all I can say."
"It's not only the best one that I've been a part of - I think it's the best one that I remember seeing since I've been watching sports," said Tony Pike. "With everything on the line and the way the game played out, it was definitely the biggest and best that I've even been a part of.
"It had everything that you love in a great football game," said Armon Binns. "I actually was sitting back in my house watching some highlights this week. They've got a bunch of stuff on YouTube with the 'Cats celebrating after the game. It was a crazy, crazy day."
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Enjoy this week's photo of young Sam displaying his soccer skills.