Heard it From Hoard: Column 36
As the Bearcats were warming up on the field to face Southern Miss in the Papajohns.com Bowl, quarterback Ben Mauk suddenly bolted for the locker room. Had to be the bum shoulder acting up on a chilly day right? Our best guess in the broadcast booth was that he was probably getting injected with a pain-killer just to be able to take the field.
Well, when asked about his mad dash to the locker room in a post-game news conference, Ben said he was taking a bathroom break.
His MVP performance against the Golden Eagles would have been impressive under any circumstances, but after talking to Ben and his teammates after the game, I'm convinced that it ranks as one of the greatest efforts in UC football history.
Tight end Connor Barwin, who made 7 catches and recovered an onside kick in the 4th quarter, said that two or three days before the game he had serious doubts that Mauk would even play - his passes didn't have much zip, and things appeared to be getting worse not better.
Head coach Brian Kelly never doubted that Mauk would take the field, but did offer to scale back the playbook to lessen the demands on Ben's surgically-repaired wing.
Ben not only nixed the offer. He finished with career-highs in attempts (52) and completions (30), and tied his career-high with 4 TD passes.
If all of this sounds a bit too dramatic, consider this - Ben told me after the game that he will have arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder right after Christmas.
Bionic Ben finished the season with 31 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions. The big question now is whether it will be his only season as a Bearcat.
Next month, Mauk will file an appeal with the NCAA for a 6th year of eligibility. He redshirted as a true freshman at Wake Forest, and Ben's former school has agreed to help in the appeal process. That would seem to indicate that there may have been medical considerations in keeping him off the field that first year. If that's the case, it would certainly enhance Mauk chances of being granted another season of eligibility.
If the NCAA grants his wish, you have to think that the Bearcats will begin next season ranked in the Top 25. Mauk takes it a step further telling the Cincinnati Post recently that if he returns for another year, Cincinnati should be considered as a legitimate contender for the national championship.
Some college football fans might find that hard to buy.
But when it comes to Ben Mauk, about the only thing I don't believe is the pre-game bathroom break.
Happy Holidays and enjoy the photo of the handsome lad in his winter hat!
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