Well... that was fun.
The Cincinnati Bearcats, in front of a rowdy and disruptive home crowd, defied the expectations of many and pulled off an impressive 34-23 win over the previously undefeated Miami Hurricanes.
Freshman quarterback Hayden Moore didn't put up the numbers he did a week ago, but he didn't need to as the Bearcats pulled together their most balanced game of the season, protecting the football and playing some solid defense when it was needed most. Cincinnati ran for 167 yards on the ground with Tion Green leading the team with 90. Hosey Williams added 80 rushing yards himself with 29 coming on a first quarter run where he disappeared into the line of scrimmage, but never went to the ground. It was Williams' touchdown run and a strike from Moore to Mekale McKay, setup by a big Shaq Washington punt return, that gave the Bearcats an early 14-3 lead in front of the Cincinnati faithful.
Miami eventually settled down though and their talented roster began to claw back. Sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya conducted three scoring drives, setting up one field goal and two touchdown runs by Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby. Cincinnati only broke up the barrage with a big 51-yard field goal from Andrew Gantz, but the Hurricanes had taken the lead, 20-17, halfway through the second quarter.
It was Cincinnati's turn as the Bearcats' defense settled in themselves and actually began to dictate the game, pressuring Kaaya. Meanwhile, Moore and the Cincinnati offense punched in another touchdown with a one-yard run by Moore. A 26-yard field goal from Gantz gave Cincinnati a 27-20 lead heading into halftime.
It was defensive struggle in the second half. The Cincinnati defense began to control the line of scrimmage and while the unit gave up yardage, they came up with stops when they were needed, a la "bend don't break". It was an inspired effort from the much-maligned defensive unit.
Partway through the fourth, Miami drove deep into the red zone, facing a 3rd and 6. The Hurricanes chose to run the ball, but were held short, forcing another Michael Badgley field goal for Miami. Cincinnati responded definitively with a beautiful 5-play, 81 yard drive, highlighted by a juggling catch by McKay for 52 yards. A 7-yard touchdown pass from Moore to Tyler Cogswell put the Bearcats up 34-23 and essentially ended the game.
The win pushes the Bearcats to 3-2 on the season with a tough, tough road trip to Provo, Utah next on dock, as Cincinnati will travel to face BYU on Oct. 16. Hope you're enjoying the ESPN coverage because that's another ESPN primetime game, this time on a Friday night.