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September 23, 2007Game Ticker | box score
CINCINNATI(AP) Mike Mickens' interception and fumble recovery set up Cincinnati's first two touchdowns, and the unbeaten Bearcats defeated winless Marshall 40-14 Saturday night.
The Bearcats are 4-0 for the first time since 1954, revived by a defense ranked among the nation's best. It had two more tone-setting plays on Saturday.
During their attention-grabbing start, the Bearcats have 12 interceptions - four by Mickens - and seven fumble recoveries, setting up 79 points. The Bearcats have allowed only three touchdowns while outscoring opponents 180-30.
The Thundering Herd (0-4) couldn't put together a drive until late in the first half, when Cincinnati led 26-2 in front of a record crowd at Nippert Stadium.
Marshall is off to its worst start since 1969, when it lost its first six games. The Herd was coming off a 48-35 loss to New Hampshire, its first defeat to a lower-division team since it joined I-A in 1997.
Cincinnati's fast start under new coach Brian Kelly has renewed interest in a program largely ignored for decades. The capacity crowd of 35,097 was the largest at Nippert Stadium, which was expanded in 1992.
The Bearcats provided some intrigue at the outset. For the second game in a row, Grutza learned shortly before the kickoff that he would start in place of quarterback Ben Mauk, bothered by a tired arm.
Mauk, who broke his passing arm and dislocated his shoulder last season at Wake Forest, started warming up after Grutza threw the ball at a lineman's feet while under pressure in the end zone, a grounding call that resulted in a safety and a 2-0 lead for Marshall.
Mauk got into the game midway through the second quarter, with Cincinnati leading 19-2 behind Mickens' two takeaways. Mauk shook his passing arm after throwing a crisp 13-yard completion on his first attempt, then put the Bearcats up 26-2 with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Barnett.
Mauk was 6-of-7 for 77 yards before he was replaced in the fourth quarter by Grutza, who led a clinching, 72-yard touchdown drive. Grutza went 5-of-7 for 63 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown pass to Connor Barwin that made it 33-14.
Grutza, who was the Bearcats' starter for most of last season, was 14-of-20 for 142 yards overall with two touchdowns.
Marshall's Bernard Morris, playing despite a nagging case of turf toe, went 20-of-30 for 252 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Darius Passmore had seven catches for 106 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown.
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