Cincinnati holds a slight all-time edge 9-7. They faced each other twice as Conference-USA schools (2003-2004), with USF winning the first meeting in Tampa and Cincinnati winning the following year at Nippert Stadium.
Bearcats won 6 of the 8 Big East games from 2005-2012, while USF has won 4 of 6 games since the formation of the American Athletic Conference.
“Collaros breaking free...”
Do we need to explain this one? In 2009, on a Thursday night ESPN game, QB Tony Pike got hurt and backup Zach Collaros came in to replace him. Fans everywhere (at least where I was) went into complete panic mode and became very worried about this game and this team’s future.
And then this happened....
The rest (12-0 regular season) is history.
First Home Loss
The 2010 season was a disappointment for Cincinnati, coming off of back-to-back Big East title. The Bulls won at Nippert Stadium for the first time (previously 0-3) and snapped a four game (four year) losing streak to the Bearcats in the process.
Struggles in Tampa
2011 is the last time Cincinnati won in Tampa. For the second time in three years, Zach Collaros went to Tampa and broke the hearts of Bulls fans. After USF took a 34-30 lead with 90 seconds to go, Cincinnati went 70 yards on 7 plays, in 1:15 and the drive concluded with a Collaros rushing touchdown, and the game would conclude with the Bearcats winning 37-34.
Collaros threw for 383 yards, 3 touchdowns (2 interceptions) and also ran for 2 touchdowns. USF QB BJ Danies threw for 409 yards, 3 TDs (1 INT) and led the Bulls in rushing with 54 yards.
(NOTE - proceed reading this section with extreme caution)
2013 lost 26-20
Of the three losses, this is the lowest margin of defeat for the Bearcats, even though it might have been the worst loss of all of them. USF finished this season 2-10, in the first year of the Willie Taggart era.
Cincinnati trailed 23-6 at halftime and made a valiant effort to come back, but they dug themselves into too deep of a hole. Following this loss, they would go on to win 6 in a row and finished 9-4, with a loss in the Belk Bowl.
2015 lost 65-27
I remember watching every single miserable second of this. For some reason, I refused to turn off the television. Not often that I feel utterly embarrassed and ashamed to be a Bearcats fan, but on this night, I did.
USF led 27-0 at the end of the first quarter and got to 34-0, before Andrew Gantz hit a 44 yard field goal to cut the lead to 31 points. USF added two more touchdowns and a last second field goal before the half for a ridiculous 51-3 halftime lead.
Touchdown USF. 48-3. 2:38 2Q.— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) November 21, 2015
Cincinnati's defense right now: pic.twitter.com/McUUZK1ZHl
There were three Bearcats touchdowns scored in the second half, but it didn’t matter. The damage was done. There was no coming back from this - I don’t mean the score, I mean the general direction of the program from a leadership standpoint. If it wasn’t clear before, it was now, that a change was needed.
Here is Cincinnati’s first half drive chart - fumble, interception, punt, interception, interception for a touchdown, FIELD GOAL!, punt, fumble. Five of their six turnovers came in the first half on just 8 possessions. This whole thing was pathetic.
Cincinnati turned the ball over 6 times.
2017 lost 33-3
This game was less pathetic than the other two, if for no reason than the 2017 season as a whole was a disaster as Luke Fickell, in his first year, tried to remove the stench of the Tuberville era and the program needed a full cultural facelift (which it has obviously received).
It was 3-3 after the first quarter and Cincinnati’s defense stepped up, holding them to a pair of field goals through the first 10 minutes of the second quarter. But USF would score their first touchdown with a little over 2 minutes to go in the half. Both teams actually exchanged punts in the final two minutes and on the final play of the half, an untimed down following a USF offsides penalty, from their own 40 yard line, Hayden Moore threw an absolutely awful pass and was picked off by Auggie Sanchez who ran it 65 yards for a touchdown.
IF you thought 65-27 was a low point, this was pretty sad too.
Because that last section was depressing to write, let’s talk about the good times. Remember last year? Bearcats won 35-23 the week before going to UCF.
Michael Warren II was a BEAST. He ran for 151 yards and 3 touchdowns and caught a 13 yard touchdown as well.
Bearcats trailed 16-14 at halftime, and then they turned on the truck as Warren ran for all three of his touchdowns in the third quarter, including a 57 yard run that gave Cincinnati the lead on their first possession of the second half.
Craziness of 2007
The 2007 college football season was crazy. For so many reasons and it’s been written about dozens of times. At one point in 2007, USF was ranked #2. They started 6-0, including wins at Auburn and West Virginia. But they would lose their seventh game to Rutgers and lose again the following week before playing UConn.
Cincinnati also started 6-0 in the first year of the Brian Kelly era. They found themselves ranked for the first time since 1954. It was also, ultimately, their first 10 win season since 1951. But like USF, they also lost their seventh and eighth games, to Louisville and Pittsburgh.
So both teams came into the 2007 games on two game losing streaks, following historic runs to start the season.
If you don’t remember this game, watch the highlights below (quality is a little poor).
Bearcats led 31-14 after a WILD first quarter that included a pick six for EACH team, kick return TD for USF, blocked punt TD for Cincinnati, and so much more.