AP Photo/Adrian Wyld
Currently, there are more than 40 bowl games. None however, are played outside the United States.
That was not the case on this day 15 years ago. In the first bowl played outside the U.S. in nearly seven decades, Cincinnati and Western Michigan met in Toronto for the International Bowl.
The annual bowl did not last long, but the first one was quite the thriller. A missed field goal was the difference as Cincinnati prevailed, 27-24.
Setting the Stage
Cincinnati had finished the season with a record of 7-5 as it arrived at the Rogers Centre on Jan. 6, 2007. The Bearcats were transitioning to a new coaching staff with Mark Dantonio leaving for Michigan State. There to fill in was the newly-hired Brian Kelly, who was making his Cincinnati debut.
Western Michigan was 8-4 and had dropped two of its final three regular-season games after a 7-2 start. The Broncos were playing their first bowl game in 18 years.
Early on, Cincinnati seemed in control. The Bearcats raced to a 24-0 lead, but by the early parts of the fourth quarter, the contest was even.
Western Michigan stormed back with 24 straight points. With less than 11 minutes to go, Western Michigan tied the game on Brandon West’s 7-yard touchdown run.
Cincinnati answered with a methodical 81-yard drive, but settled for a 33-yard field goal from Kevin Lovell. Down 27-24, the Broncos responded with a long drive of their own.
Western Michigan reached the Cincinnati 30-yard-line with more than two minutes to go, but the Bearcats’ defense stiffened. After a false start, a short completion and two incomplete passes, Nate Meyer came on to try a 51-yard field goal, but his attempt was wide. Cincinnati proceeded to run out the clock.
It was a defensive play that got the scoring started as Cincinnati’s John Bowie intercepted Western Michigan quarterback Ryan Cubit and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown less than four minutes in. Less than a minute into the second quarter, the lead ballooned to 21-0. Nick Davila connected with Dominick Goodman for a pair of 21-yard touchdown passes.
Lovell’s field goal pushed the lead to 24-0 early in the second quarter, but by halftime, the lead was just seven.
A 76-yard touchdown pass from E.J. Biggers to Jamarko Simmons on the very next play got the Broncos on the board. On the next Western Michigan drive, Cubit found Herb Martin for a 30-yard touchdown. Meyer’s 30-yard field goal cut the lead to 24-17 with less than a minute remaining in the first half.
Neither team scored in the third quarter.
Davila passed for 214 yards, but two interceptions led to 10 points for Western Michigan. Goodman led Cincinnati with 109 yards receiving on seven catches.
Simmons paced the Broncos with 13 catches for 172 yards in the loss. West was the game’s top rusher with 109 yards on 21 carries.
Western Michigan finished with 368 yards to 347 for Cincinnati. The Bearcats also got the win despite turning the ball over four times and forcing just two turnovers.
Both teams would finish 8-5 in 2006. Kelly began his Cincinnati tenure with a win before leading the Bearcats to Big East championships in 2008 and 2009.
The International Bowl would last for just four seasons before ultimately becoming defunct. Of those four contests, only one was decided by fewer than 18 points. That came on this day 15 years ago.
Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.