Michael Warren escaped for a 57-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter on Saturday. It was a turning point in the game and helped the Cincinnati Bearcats capture a convincing 35-23 win over the USF Bulls at Nippert Stadium.
The Bearcats (9-1, 5-1 American Athletic Conference) had struggled on offense in the first half. That goes for Warren as well. The team’s leading rusher fought his way to 59 yards in the first half. While that’s a healthy number of yards, he was unable to get any big gains, with a long run of 12 yards.
As Warren labored, the passing game whimpered, with Desmond Ridder throwing for only 46 yards in the first 30 minutes, although his two touchdown passes kept the Bearcats in business, with USF leading only 16-14 at halftime.
The third quarter started in much the same way. After forcing a Bulls punt, the Bearcats offense made the act of getting to their own 30 look tiresome. That was until, following a 13-yard scramble from Ridder, Warren took the ball 57 yards into the end zone, giving the Bearcats a 21-16 lead. They would score a total of 21 points in the quarter and never trail again.
Warren’s big run was the highlight of an exceptional game of football from the sophomore. He rushed for 151 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries and also caught a pair of passes for 27 yards and an additional score. In fact, with a total of 24 points to his name, Warren outscored the Bulls by himself. Additionally, he reached the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season, making him the first Bearcat since George Winn in 2012 to reach the milestone.
Elsewhere, Ridder made enough throws to keep the offense somewhat balanced, completing 17-of-24 pass attempts for 194 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 60 yards. Kahlil Lewis caught five passes for 37 yards and a touchdown. Rashad Medaris failed to put points on the board but contributed with 92 yards on four catches.
UC finished with 432 yards of total offense, while absolutely dominating time of possession, holding the ball for more than 37 game minutes. The defense, led by 10 tackles for Jarell White, limited USF to 313 total yards, including only 81 on the ground.
The Bearcats have won three-straight games and are now on a collision course with the AAC East-leading UCF Knights next weekend. If you thought tonight’s game was big, you haven’t seen anything yet.