Guidugli ready for Buckeyes

Terry Kinney and Terry Kinney

Quarterback Gino Guidugli doesn’t want the defining moment of his college career to be a near-miss against Ohio State.He and the Cincinnati Bearcats nearly upset eventual national champion Ohio State in 2002. They take on the No. 9 Buckeyes again Saturday at Ohio Stadium.”There’s not really any feeling of unfinished business,” said Guidugli, who had two probable touchdown passes dropped in the endzone in the closing seconds of the 23-19 loss two years ago. “It’s the first game of the season and we want to look good out there the first game and come away with a win.””I think we’re confident, as long as we play our game and eliminate mental mistakes and turnovers, I think we have a shot to win any game we play this season.”Guidugli, a senior, already holds most of Cincinnati’s passing records — most attempts (1,214), completions (670), yards (8,820), touchdowns (52) and total offense (8,938).What he’d like now is to go out a winner in Cincinnati’s last season in Conference USA, before joining the Big East. A win Saturday could overshadow the rest of the season.”It would be a big win for the people of Cincinnati if we go up there and beat Ohio State,” Guidugli said. “But we’ve got to look at it as just another game on our schedule; it’s a new offense we’re breaking in, a new defensive scheme.”Things are different at Cincinnati because Mark Dantonio succeeded Rick Minter as coach in December, after the Bearcats finished the season at 5-7.The last time Dantonio saw Guidugli play against Ohio State, Dantonio was defensive coordinator for the Buckeyes.”He was very poised, made good decisions in that game, showed toughness, had the ability to read very well and know where to go with the ball,” Dantonio said. “Since coming here, he’s continued to impress me as a person in terms of his toughness, in terms of his football intellect.”He works at football very hard. He studies the game. He’s very intelligent. We’re very fortunate to have him back.”Guidugli (pronounced guh-DOO’-lee) was a high school star at Fort Thomas Highlands in a northern Kentucky suburb of Cincinnati. He threw for 54 touchdowns as a senior, leading his team to a record third straight Kentucky Class AAA championship, and expected to play at the University of Kentucky.But just before signing day, Kentucky coach Hal Mumme resigned amid allegations of NCAA violations in his program, and Guidugli cast his lot with the lower-profile Bearcats.”I have no regrets about my college career,” Guidugli said. “I got an opportunity to play as a freshman. I’m grateful to coach Minter for giving me that opportunity.”Cards are going to lay where they fall; there’s not much you can do about it. I just go out there and try to play every game the best I can. Whatever happens is going to happen.”Cincinnati, a 15 1/2-point underdog, has 27 seniors who would like nothing more than to beat Ohio State.”There’s lots of story lines on this game,” Guidugli said. “We have a bunch of Ohio boys who want to play Ohio State — who wanted to play for Ohio State growing up — about 50 story lines this year.”And, of course, there’s the Dantonio angle. He went from one of the nation’s premier programs to one fighting to justify Division I-A status. He knows how emotional the last Cincinnati-Ohio State game was for the Bearcats.”It had to be a very, very tough loss for the players,” he said. “I think that has sat with the players for a couple of years; that’s not a bad thing. It will be a tremendous challenge for us.”Just how will Dantonio approach his first game as a head coach, against the team he helped to a national championship?”I’ll be excited, but we need to keep our composure,” Dantonio said. “I’m not a big rah, rah guy.”