BY GEOFF HOBSON
Maybe it was meant to be for Browns rookie running back Travis Prentice to score the first regular-season touchdown in Paul Brown Stadium history.
Prentice, a Miami of Ohio product like Paul Brown, raced 16 yards around the right side of the Bengals defense and went into the end zone virtually untouched to give Cleveland a 7-0 lead with 3:43 left in the first quarter.
The Browns later upped their lead to 14-7 early in the second quarter, moments after the Bengals' Craig Yeast fumbled a punt at his own 21. Four plays later Tim Couch hit tight end Mark Campbell on a five-yard touchdown pass a split-second before defensive end John Copeland drilled the Browns quarterback.
The Bengals had a shaky first 20 or so minutes in their new building. No. 1 pick Peter Warrick dropped a pass that would have been a first down, and on the next play rookie kicker Neil Rackers had his first NFL field goal try blocked from 45 yards out on a low kick.
The Bengals rookies receivers did respond on the drive after Prentice's touchdown with Cincinnati going 78 yards on eight plays tie the score at 7 just 28 seconds in the second quarter when quarterback Akili Smith hit Ron Dugans over the middle for a four-yard touchdown pass.
On the previous play, Smith hit Warrick on a come-back route for a 13-yard pickup in front of cornerback Corey Fuller.
But the key receiver in the drive was Craig Yeast. After converting a long third-down a few plays before, Yeast hopped on running back Brandon Bennett's fumble at the Browns 17 after Bennett ripped off 23 yards on a shovel pass.
Prentice gave the Browns' offense juice in a six-play, 76-yard drive that included a 20-yard pass interference call on Bengals cornerback Artrell Hawkins, one of three Cincinnati penalties in the first quarter.
Hawkins had a tough first quarter. On the first play from scrimmage in the stadium, Browns quarterback Tim Couch hit receiver David Patten racing past Hawkins for a 64-yard gain to put the ball on the Bengals' 11.
But on a fourth-and-2 from the Bengals' 3, outside linebacker Adrian Ross and nose tackle Oliver Gibson teamed to stop Browns running back Errict Rhett for a one-yard gain.