Saturday will be the 23rd all-time football meeting between Cincinnati Bearcats and East Carolina Pirates and the 6th since both have been apart of the American Athletic Conference. ECU leads the all-time series 13-9, with Cincinnati.
The history between these schools is not the most storied or even meaningful, but some of the recent games have certainly included plenty of drama.
Cincinnati is 4-1 vs ECU, since the Pirates joined the American in 2014. Here is a run down of those 5 games.
2014 - Andrew Gantz FTW!
2014 was the last year ECU had a winning record, finishing the season with an 8-5 record.
This game was crazy and in the spirit of basketball season starting soon, this game had a Mick Cronin era score, except in football that means it’s a wild score, instead of a depressing one. Cincinnati won the game 54-46. Explaining what happened is a long story but I’ll do my best to make it simple.
Cincinnati led 31-20 at halftime and RB Mike Boone capped off an 8 play drive to open the second half with a 3 yard TD run to put Cincinnati up 38-20.
ECU would come back and ultimately cut the lead to 45-40. With 2 minutes left, QB Gunner Kiel fumbled and ECU recovered. ECU QB Shane Carden ran in the go-ahead TD, but missed the 2 point conversion, giving ECU a 46-45 lead with 1 minute remaining.
Cincinnati hit a couple of long completions and got down to the ECU 30 yard line. Once the drive stalled, coach Tommy Tuberville opted for a field goal on 4th down and kicker Andrew Gantz nailed it from 47 yards out.
ECU fumbled the ensuing kick off and Cincinnati recovered in the endzone to extend the lead and end the game 54-46.
Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel threw for 436 yards, 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Those 4 TDs went to WRs Mekale McKay (2), Chris Moore, and Max Morrison.
ECU WR Justin Hardy caught 15 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a touchdown.
2015 - Andrew Gantz FTW! - Part 2
Remember that time when kicker Andrew Gantz hit a game winning 47 yard field goal to beat East Carolina? Yeah, well in 2015 he did it again!
This was the first game between these teams in Greenville since 2004, when they shared C-USA together.
ECU jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead in the first quarter, scoring on their first two possessions. Cincinnati scored early in the second quarter, and missed the extra point, and trailed 10-6 at halftime.
The first half drive chart for the Bearcats was ugly - 3 punts, INT, and a TD. Of Cincinnati’s 9 total possessions - 6 drives were at least 12 plays or more.
After a slow start, the Bearcats came out of halftime strongly, running a 16 play, 76 yard drive in over 7 minutes that culminated in a Mike Boone TD run.
They only had 4 possessions total in the second half - 16 play TD, 12 play FG, 12 play missed FG, 12 play FG.
The way this game ended was rather chaotic, similarly to the previous game. After a 50 yard field goal by Gantz put Cincinnati up 16-10, ECU tied the game with a 15 play drive to open the fourth quarter. They missed a crucial extra point, that would have given them the lead.
On the next possession, Gantz missed a 44 yard field goal, giving ECU the ball back with 4 minutes left, but the Pirates would go three-and-out. with just under 3 minutes to go, Cincinnati capitalized on one last chance and Gantz was able to redeem himself with a 42 yard FG as time expired.
Gantz struggled, missing a field goal and an extra point before a second consecutive game winning field goal for Cincinnati.
The loss dropped ECU to 5-7 and they haven’t been to a bowl game since 2014. Ruffin McNeil was fired as head coach after the disappointing season.
2016 - The Rebirth of Gunner Kiel
Kiel, who started against ECU in 2014 and 2015, had an interesting 2016 season. He only started four games total, this being his first start of the year. He was benched before the season in favor of Hayden Moore and was behind Ross Trail as the #3 QB on the depth chart.
Kiel came out on fire, completing 23 of 40 passes, 348 yards and 4 touchdown passes.
3 of Kiel’s 4 TD passes went to WR Kahlil Lewis, who caught 11 passes total for 150 yards. Current Minnesota Vikings LB Eric Wilson led the Bearcats with 16 tackles.
2017 - Minshew’s Magic
2017 was a difficult year for Cincinnati. In Luke Fickell’s first year, the Bearcats finished 4-8, this being the final loss of the season. ECU came into the game 2-8 and won 48-20. The 48 points were the most they scored all season and the 20 points allowed were the second fewest by the Pirates.
ECU was led by QB Gardner Minshew, now a rookie with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Minshew completed 31 of 44 passes for 444 yards and 4 touchdowns.
ECU scored twice in every quarter (2 touchdown in the first and third quarters and a touchdown and field goal in second and fourth quarters).
On the first possession of the second half, Minshew connected with WR Trevon Brown for a 95 yard touchdown.
Hayden Moore started at QB for Cincinnati. He threw 3 TD passes, with 2 of them coming in the second quarter - one was a 75 yard TD to Kahlil Lewis and the other was the only career TD catch for WR JaQuay Savage.
2018 - Get out of the Way
For the second time in five years, Cincinnati and ECU ended the regular season against each other. Cincinnati won 56-6 to finish the regular season 10-2, their first 10 win season since 2009.
The week prior, Cincinnati lost a tough game to UCF in a Primetime ABC game, that College Gameday was at.
Bearcats took out their frustrations on a bad ECU team. Cincinnati scored 42 points in the first half. QB Desmond Ridder was on fire with 4 TD passes. Among his 20 completions, 9 of them went to WR Khalil Lewis who had 203 yards receiving and 3 TD catchers.
RB Michael Warren sat out after being banged up the week prior, allowing freshmen RBs Charles McClelland and Tavion Thomas the opportunity to shine. Thomas ran for 106 yards and a TD and McClelland ran for 114 yards on just 9 carries and a TD.
Desmond Ridder threw for 335 yards and four touchdowns as @GoBearcatsFB collected 641 total offensive yards on Friday afternoon against ECU as Cincinnati earned its 10th win of the season. #AmericanFB pic.twitter.com/vwK2cedaKV— American Football (@American_FB) November 24, 2018
The first ever meeting between these schools took place in 1986 in Greenville. The first game in Cincinnati wouldn’t happen until two years later in 1988.
ECU opened the series on a 7 game winning streak, winning each year from 1986-1992.
The Bearcats first ever win over ECU came in 1993 and they won again two years later in 1995 with both of those wins taking place at Nippert Stadium.
After 7 consecutive losses in Greenville, Cincinnati finally won their first road game of the series in 2002. They would go on to win 3 in a row from 2002-2004, after ECU had won the first 4 from 1997-2001 (did not play in 2000).
2004 was the final meeting between C-USA foes, as Cincinnati left for the Big East before the start of the 2005 season.
Top Players (multiple games played)
- WR Kahlil Lewis caught 22 passes for 437 yards and 7 touchdowns in three games
- QB Gunner Kiel went 3-0 as a starter vs ECU, completing 82 of 131 passes (63%), throwing for 1,054 yards, 9 TDs, and 4 INTs in three games
- Kicker Andrew Gantz hit two game winning field goals in the final seconds and also hit a career-long 50 yard FG