Cincinnati football kicks off in one week!! They will begin their 7th season in the American Athletic Conference. One of the unfortunate consequences of college football realignment over the years is the loss of rivalry games throughout the country. Specifically for Cincinnati, they lost annual match-ups with Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Rutgers. While Rutgers wasn’t a traditional rival in the sense of the history and geographic ties, the two teams played some classic games over the years, some of which carried much significance.
This #ThrowbackThursday article looks at the history of Cincinnati football dominating Rutgers over a five year period from 2006 through 2010. The Bearcats’ five game win streak is the longest of either team in the 19 game series history, which dates back to 1980. All-time, each team has won 9 times and there was one tied in 1989. The Bearcats went 6-3 vs Rutgers in Big East games from 2005-2013.
(Note - under significance of game, I have shared some personal thoughts on each game as I was able to attend all five of these in person).
2006 – #7 Rutgers Suffers First Loss
Final score: 30-11
Key play: Rutgers QB Mike Teel threw an interception in the second quarter to CB Deangelo Smith, who returned it 84 yards for a touchdown.
Memorable play: In the third quarter, up 20-3, Cincinnati TE Brent Celek rumbled for an 83 yard touchdown to put the game away (his only catch of the day).
Notable stats: Nick Davila made his first career start at QB for Cincinnati and completed 11 of 15 passes for 277 yards, 1 pass TD, and 1 rush TD.
Significance of the game: Rutgers entered the game ranked #7 in the polls and 9-0 overall. For the first time in school history they had Big East title goals and even BCS bowl game aspirations. The win gave Cincinnati its 6th on the season (6-5 record), to give them bowl eligibility for a second time in three years under coach Mark Dantonio. I’ll never forget the amazing experience of rushing the field (and losing my shoe). This was the beginning of the rise of Cincinnati football. After this season, Brian Kelly would take over as coach and Big East championships, 10 win seasons and BCS bowl games would follow.
2007 – #20 Cincy wins @ #21 Rutgers
Final score: 28-23
Key Play: Linebacker Ryan Manalac picked off Rutgers QB Mike Teel (Teel had 3 interceptions and no TDs)
Memorable plays: With less than one minute to go in the third quarter, Cincinnati trailed 20-14. When the third quarter ended, the Bearcats led 28-20. Ben Mauk threw a 2 yard touchdown pass to Marcus Barnett with 40 seconds to go. On Rutgers’ very next play, Teel threw an interception to Andre Revels. Bearcats scored on a 27 yard TD pass to Mardy Gilyard one play later with 27 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Not a play, but a memorable moment came after the game, Ben Mauk made a gesture towards the Rutgers sideline mocking their famous “keep chopping wood” gimmick, doing his own “Mauk chop”.
Notable stats: Mauk threw 3 touchdown passes, one each to Gilyard (5 catches, 97 yards), Marcus Barnett (6 catches, 74 yards), and Dominick Goodman (3 catches, 33 yards).
Significance of the game: It should be obvious, but this was the first time ever these teams faced off with both ranked in the top 25. Rutgers was actually ranked 10th a week prior, but fell due to a loss to Maryland. Cincinnati would return home the week after and lost to Louisville and lost again the week after at Pittsburgh.
My only memories of this game was that I didn’t come across a single polite person in all of Piscataway, NJ.
2008 – Cincy wins a punt fest
Final score: 13-10
Key play: Cincinnati QB Chazz Anderson, starting in place of an injured Tony Pike, ran for an 8 yard touchdown 5 minutes into the second quarter to give Cincinnati a 10-3 lead. It was the Bearcats’ only touchdown scored of the game.
Memorable play: There was absolutely nothing memorable about this game for anyone except “analyst” Pat McAfee because this was the ultimate #ForTheBrand game. There were a total of 19 punts (10 for Rutgers, 9 for Cincinnati).
Notable stats: Kevin Huber punted 9 times, totaling 418 yards, with his longest punt being 64 yards. As a team, the Bearcats were 0-11 on third down conversions offensively.
Significance of the game: The win put Cincinnati at 5-1, while Rutgers was 1-5. The Bearcats would go on to win the Big East and play in the Orange Bowl that season. This was a rough game - it was homecoming, it was beautiful weather and I have zero feelings towards this game.
2009 – Cincy crushes Rutgers on Labor Day
Final score: 47-15
Key play: Isaiah Pead scored from 2 yards away on the opening drive - 9 plays, 81 yards in 2 minutes.
Memorable play: The whole second quarter was memorable. After an intense 7-7 quarter, Bearcats scored three touchdowns in 6 minute span in the second quarter - Travis Kelce 6 yard TD run, Pike to Gilyard 5 yard TD and 41 yard reception for Isaiah Pead. Tack on a field goal, and the Bearcats led 31-7 at halftime.
Notable stats: QB Tony Pike completed 27-34 passes, 362 yards, 3 TDs
Significance of this game: The Bearcats finished the regular season 12-0, winning back-to-back Big East titles.
This game is a top 5 sports moment in my life. The result wasn’t surprising but the way it all happened was quite unexpected. Week 1 on Labor Day, high expectations for both programs. Rutgers rolled out a renovated stadium which was loud and sold out. Students were as loud and obnoxious as ever. Fans were mean and nasty. But, it was great!
My favorite memory was a fan coming up to me in the stands, unprovoked, using inappropriate language towards Brian Kelly, to which, I simply shrugged and said “scoreboard”.
2010 – Cincy covers the over on their own
Final score: 69-38
Key Play: On the 13th play of the game, Cincinnati scored their second touchdown and the third touchdown overall, taking a 13-7 lead. From that point, Bearcats would never trail again, after being down 7-6, after Rutgers scored on a 51 yard run on their first play from scrimmage.
Memorable play: This game featured a lot of memorable plays, but Isaiah Pead scoring a touchdown early in the 4th quarter is relevant for a few reasons. 60+ points is a rarity in conference games and at this point, Rutgers wasn’t rock bottom bad like they are now. Pead’s 26 yard TD run, a few minutes into the 4th gave Cincinnati 62 points and gave him his 4th rushing TD and 5th TD overall.
Notable stats: RB Isaiah Pead ran for 213 yards on 31 caries, 4 rush touchdowns and a 34 yard receiving touchdown. QB Zach Collaros threw for 366 yards and 4 TD and ran for 1 TD.
Significance of the game: This was the first year of the Butch Jones tenure and the Bearcats entered the game 3-6. There really is no significance - this was just a wild, crazy game. The way this team played all year, this score was so unexpected but it was a fun and pleasant offensive outburst in what would be my last time seeing this rivalry first hand at Nippert Stadium, and ultimately the last time the Bearcats would win at home against Rutgers.
2011 through 2013
2011 - Bearcats lost a dud of a game 20-3. Munchie Legaux completed just 12 of 31 passes and ran for 31 yards on 12 carries. This date is significant in Bearcats sports history - the men’s basketball team lost at home to Presbyterian that night.
2012 - Another dud, Bearcats lost 10-3 at Nippert Stadium. Brendon Kay started at QB and threw a pair of interceptions.
2013 - It remains to be seen if this was the final meeting ever, but for now it is and the Bearcats went out on as high of a note as you could, winning 52-13 on the road.
Do you have any fun memories of Cincinnati/Rutgers games you would like to share? Comment below and let us know how your experience was in Piscataway or how you felt in 2006 or on Labor Day 2009.