FORT WORTH, Texas (Ticker) -- What a difference Gino Guidugli made for Cincinnati.
Guidugli threw a pair of touchdown passes and the defense totally controlled Marshall in Cincinnati's 32-14 victory in the Fort Worth Bowl.
The last time Cincinnati took the field, it was handed a season-ending 70-7 drubbing at Louisville. However, the Bearcats played without Guidugli, who was sidelined with a fractured hand.
"I can't tell you how happy and proud I am of this team," Cincinnati coach Mark Dantonio said. "We talked a lot about redemption and respect before the game. This team came back from a 70-7 loss 26 days ago and beat Marshall tonight. That says something about the character of these players."
Guidugli, who holds every Cincinnati career passing and total offense record, completed 24-of-36 passes for 231 yards. He threw two TD passes in the second quarter as the Bearcats took a 24-14 lead into halftime.
The senior quarterback also broke Greg Cook's 36-year-old school record for touchdown passes in a season, finishing the game with 26 in 11 games.
Guidugli played equally well both under center and in shotgun formation while nursing an injured hand suffered against South Florida in the team's next-to-last regular season game.
"I told the receivers last night that I probably was not going to be 100 percent and that they would have to step up and make some plays. And that's just exactly what they did tonight," Guidugli said. "I was only about 75-80 percent tonight and I couldn't get the velocity on my passes that I would have liked. But the offensive line handled the game for us and someone was always stepping up and making plays for us on third down. It was a great all-around team effort on offense."
The Bearcats trailed 14-10 after the first quarter due to Guidugli's lone miscue of the game. Junior defensive back Willie Smith picked his pass by Guidugli and raced 32 yards for a touchdown to give Marshall the lead.
The Bearcats (7-5) then took the lead for good when tight end Brent Celek hauled in a 15-yard scoring strike from Guidugli with 4:31 to play in the half. Earnest Jackson then capped an 11-play, 87-yard drive with an eight-yard TD catch with just 18 seconds left.
Cincinnati opened the second half with a pair of 18-play drives that ate up most of the time in the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth. The Bearcats came up empty on the first series as a pass from a fake field goal was deflected and intercepted at the line of scrimmage.
Marshall drove to the Cincinnati 42 in its opening possession of the second half, but a third down pass over the middle from quarterback Stan Hill was tipped by linebacker Jamey Murphey and intercepted by Kevin Hazel. It was the only time the Thundering Herd had the ball in the quarter.
Guidugli moved the Bearcats 61 yard in 18 plays on their next series, capping it with a 19-yard field goal by Kevin Lovell to make the score 27-14. On the following possesion, Marshall's Ian O'Connor had his second punt blocked in the game, going out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Marshall defensive end Johnathan Goddard expressed dismay at his team's inability to put more pressure on Guidugli, especially on third down situations.
"(Guidugli) used a three-step drop on us every time and got the ball off quickly," Goddard said. "We were getting extremely frustrated. We would get close to him and he would run out on us and make a big play. We weren't getting tired, just aggravated because we couldn't get to him."
Marshall (6-6) was unable to get anything going offensively, managing only 11 first downs and 134 total yards. Hill was 14-of-30 for 137 yards, one TD and one interception, but the Thundering Herd were held to minus-3 yards on the ground in 21 attempts.
Marshall coach Bob Pruett said his team had not seen much contact since the regular season finale Nov. 20, and it showed on the field.
"We got whipped up front on both the offensive and defensive lines," Pruett said. "This was the first time since the first game of the season that we couldn't run the football. We didn't protect our quarterback very well, either. We had poor pass defense and I don't know what happened with our punting game. Cincinnati took it to us. We're usually pretty potent on offense, but minus-3 yards rushing on 21 carries is unacceptable."
Hannibal Thomas hauled in nine receptions for 102 yards for Cincinnati, setting a Fort Worth Bowl record for receptions in a game.
Cincinnati scored just one minute into the game when Tyjuan Hagler blocked a punt that Antwaun Giddens scooped up and took 10 yards for the score. With 6:23 to play in the first quarter, Lovell tacked on a 23-yard field goal to stretch the margin to 10-0.
Marshall responded with two touchdowns in the final minute of the quarter. Hill connected with Josh Davis on a 14-yard scoring strike with 1:00 to play, and then Smith followed with his interception return to put the Thundering Herd on top, 14-10.
The game-time temperature was 28 degrees with a wind chill factor of 17 degrees, but Hill refused to use that as an excuse for his team's poor performance.
"Everyone knew ahead of time it was cold. We're from West Virginia, afterall, and we played our last two games in snow," Hill said. "It was cold for both teams. I thought we were ready to play, but I guess we weren't as ready as I thought. We stayed in third-and-long situations all night, and it's hard to keep asking your offense to convert. It was just not our night."
Guidugli was named player of the game for Cincinnati, while Davis took the honors for Marshall.