WMU Broncos face off with Brian Kelly and Cincinnati in the International Bowl

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January 6, 2007

Toronto, Ontario Canada

International Bowl

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O.K. I admit something that will come as not a surprise. No not that I am fat; that was too obvious. I am a football junkie (probably also as obvious), and I was very excited for the first annual International Bowl here in Toronto. Sure it is the first one, but it is the story lines that to me are for a rare change are bigger than the game.

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First is the rivalry between Cubit and Kelly. Brian Kelly, of course, left CMU to take the vacated head-coaching job at Cincinnati that was left open by new MSU coach Mark Dantonio. Cubit and Kelly have less than, shall we say, a warm relationship and that makes this game interesting. Kelly won that last time in a torrential downpour in Mt. Pleasant. It was a 31-7 rout that was close, but three WMU turnovers and 21 unanswered points by the Chips in the second half did the Broncos in.Â

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Cubit and Kelly were two hot names around the nation. Cubit, the solid veteran, that rose through the ranks and demonstrated his prowess by taking a Western team that no one (any who expected this is a LIAR) thought could make a splash and willing them to 8 wins. He is a genius at being able to not only see talent but to develop it, which is a bigger key. Kelly won two national championships at Grand Valley and with a wide-open Wild West offense, puts butts in the seats.

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Kelly comes in facing Cubit saying that he will run Dantonio’s shall we say less than wild west offense, but anyone who knows him is well aware that his posturing is just that and he will try to implement his attack with only the limited amount of bowl practices that the Bearcats got. Cubit comes in with his name being mentioned at several places, but with a focus that mirrors his steady jaw. He is thinking about one thing, beating Kelly.

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The second story line is that the starting QB for the Bronco’s happens to be Cubit’s sixth year senior son, Ryan Cubit. He brings his gunslinger quick release All-American good looks and the personality and character that every dad dreams his daughter would marry. That however is the story. To quote Paul Harvey “…here is the rest of the story.” Coach Cubit’s wife and Ryan’s mom, the absolutely adorable Nancy is stuck in the stands with all of the emotion of a son’s last game and a husband’s overseeing of perhaps the greatest coaching job in the nation. ESPN recently named her husband the most underrated coach and part of that is because of the make up of this clan. “Nancy is the glue,” is what Cubit told me earlier in the season. “Getting to play again (NCAA Medical Red shirt) was special I mean I love football,” was what Ryan told me earlier in the season, but as tears came to his eyes he went on, “To play for my dad, who is more than a dad but also my friend is so special. That to me is the greatest part of my career.” Both of the Cubit men however gush over Nancy.Â

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Cubit’s sincerity and to be honest ability make him the coach that he is, and I for one not only respect him as a coach, but admire him as a man.   His son has been given a great gift, the character of his father. Yet, they both would tell you that Nancy is the glue that makes these two fine men what they are.Â

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The Cats came out running the Kelly offense as expected, but the Broncos weren’t fooled and stopped them. On WMU’s first drive a WMU receiver bobbled a well-placed ball and the Cats intercepted it for the TD, giving them an early 7-0 lead.

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Cubit showed some early jitters by missing a wide-open receiver to end their second drive, and the Cats punished him when they marched right down and made the score 14-0.Â

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The Bearcats opened the second quarter with a 21-yard TD making it 21-0 and visibly disheartening the young Bronco team. The Cats came back with a field goal and the Broncos finally got on the board with a long TD making it 24-7 with 8:15 left in the half.

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With 6:55 left in the first half, Coach Cubit showed his coaching prowess however when he went for it on fourth down, a gutsy call but the right call. The conversion set the Broncos up with a first and ten from the Cat 45. More importantly, they were driving and getting within ten would give the young Broncos some life. The Broncos went right back to the Cubits arm and picked up a big pass interference drive that put them at the 30 first and ten. That allowed young Mr. Cubit the opportunity to show off his quick release when he threw a 30-yard strike that with the PAT gave the Cats the 24-14 lead, but the Broncos had the life and Coach Cubit out of breath as he sprinted to his son and QB for the big hug!

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The Bronco’s next drive was stalled when a Cubit pass was dropped that would have been a TD and Cubit got called for an intentional grounding. The ball was thrown at the feet of a running back and was clearly a bad call. The inspired Bronco D however kept fighting and again stopped the Cats who had clearly not yet mastered the Kelly offense. Giving the ball back to their offense that had stopped themselves the last drive.

The Bearcats first play buried at their own 19 with only seconds to play, was intercepted and the Broncos had the ball at the Cats 14 with a first and ten and 26 seconds left. The Broncos had to settle for a three when on third down a receiver made the wrong read, but still they had come back from being down 24 with 17 unanswered points making it 24-17 at the half. More importantly, the Broncos had all the momentum.

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The Broncos got the ball to start the third quarter and on third down Cubit missed a wide-open receiver, clearly having some jitters. Again however the story was the Bearcats couldn’t stop them, they did. Thankfully for the Bronco offense, they had their defense that once again stifled the Bearcats and it gave the ball back to Cubit.

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I had talked before the game to Broncos coach Mike Sullivan and told him I thought if this team could be no less then ten down with 10 minutes to play in the third, that I thought the Broncos could win it. So they started their next drive down ten with 9:50 in the third and all the momentum.

The Broncos had a great drive going but Cubit made a bad read and his receiver made a terrible cut that culminated in an interception. That was not what the Dr. ordered as the Broncos had a nice drive going.Â

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The Bronco D bent but didn’t break on the Cats next drive when they got as close as the seven, but the Bronco pressure forced Davila (UC QB) to fumble the ball and the Broncos took possession at their own 11.

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Having just gotten another huge turnover, the offense now had to show their stellar D something, and they did. They had a nice drive that stalled but it also gave the D a rest as it took them into the fourth quarter and gave their D a much-needed rest.

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Rested they were when they came out hitting like Babe Ruth leaving Bearcats laying on the field and getting yet another turnover giving their guys the ball on the Bearcat 47 with 12:34 to go in the fourth.

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Cubit showed his mastery of his Father’s offense when he lead the Broncos on a 47-yard drive that not only tied the game but put the Broncos clearly in the drivers seat for a bowl victory, the schools first in it’s history. The drive was also marked the team’s largest comeback of the season. The previous being when they were down 12 to Eastern Michigan. So with the score tied with 10:53 to go in the game, the Broncos had the crowd, and the momentum.

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The Bearcats almost gave the Bronco’s back the ball on the kickoff but they held it and Kelly took the kids back to what they knew. The Cats took the ball down the field rushing the ball and keeping a rattled Davila from having to throw it. The Cats were able to score a field goal, their first score of the second half and that put the Cats up three at 27-24 but the Broncos and Ryan Cubit had the ball and a chance to deliver to the Broncos and his dad their first bowl win.

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That was not to be however, when the Broncos went for the game tying field goal, and it sailed wide right into my arms where I did a very fine job if I do say so myself catching it with one hand, while I held a very expensive camera in the other.

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Broncos lose, but they sure put on a show.Â

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