As the Cincinnati Bearcats prepare to play 5th ranked Ohio State in front of 100k fans at Ohio Stadium, let me refresh your memories of the last few times Cincinnati went on the road against a high profile, highly ranked opponent in a non-conference game (excluding Ohio State - full history of the all-time series to come later this week).
Spoiler - they are 0-6 in these games. It remains to be seen whether that trend can change this week, but there are some trends that you’ll notice in these games that the team needs to break in order to remain competitive.
#8 Michigan - 2017
This was Luke Fickell’s first season and second game as Bearcats head coach. But after two decades in Columbus, if anyone was equipped enough to win at Michigan, it was him. This game falls in the same spot as the 2019 Ohio State game, being played week 2 at noon on ABC. The 2017 Bearcats finished 4-8 and this game went about as expected.
Michigan won 36-14. Wolverines jumped out to a very early 14-0 lead and Cincinnati weathered the storm thanks to a Mike Boone touchdown run at the end of the first, to cut the lead to 14-7. After a quiet second quarter, Cincinnati trailed 17-7 in a very quiet Big House.
Out of the locker room, Bearcats would strike first after a 10 play, 85 yard drive culminated with Hayden Moore hitting Kahlil Lewis on a 10 yard touchdown pass, not even 4 minutes into the half to cut the lead to 3 (24-21). From that point though, Michigan would score 19 straight points and come away with a rather unimpressive victory.
Michigan QB Wilton Speight threw 2 touchdown passes. Speight started the UCLA game week 1 of 2018 against Cincinnati in a win for the Bearcats.
Cincinnati QB Hayden Moore threw 40 passes, only completing 15 of them, with two interceptions. The only two TDs were Moore pass to Lewis and Boone run. Boone would finish with just - 4 yards on 12 carries.
Miami (The U) - 2014
The final score is a lot closer than this game was. Miami won 55-34, but Cincinnati scored 21 points in the 4th quarter against a bunch of backups.
On Miami’s first play of the game, RB Duke Johnson ran 80 yards for a TD. Bearcats came right back on the next drive with a touchdown pass for Gunner Kiel to Shaq Washington, before Miami would strike again to lead 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Bearcats trailed 24-10 at halftime, which if you didn’t see the first half and only saw the score you would think was reasonable to overcome. But Miami came out and blew the doors off, outscoring Cincinnati 17-3 in the quarter.
Gunner Kiel was extremely inconsistent - he threw 3 touchdown passes but also threw 3 interceptions. Cincinnati RBs Rodriguez Moore and Mike Boone combined for 17 carries for 47 yards. The lack of run game was the obviously result of an early 14-0 deficit , which forced Kiel to throw 57 passes. Kiel’s three touchdowns went to Washington, Max Morrison, and Mekale McKay.
Tennessee - 2011
Ironically, like Ohio State this week and Michigan in 2017, this is another game that took place at noon on ABC. Even more ironic, Cincinnati got blown out, and despite that coach Butch Jones would later leave to coach the Vols two years later.
This was quite the opposite of what happened against Michigan and Miami. Cincinnati scored right out of the gate. On the third play of the game, Isaiah Pead ran 65 yards for a touchdown, just 90 seconds into the game.
But the game quickly turned after Tennessee converted a 7 play drive into a touchdown in under 4 minutes and then successfully converted an on side kick. They followed up that kick with a 2 minute scoring drive to take a 14-7 lead. Bearcats would end the first quarter wth a touchdown pass from QB Zach Collaros to TE Adrien Robinson. An exciting first quarter ended with the Bearcats going toe-to-toe with the Vols, tied 14-14.
The talent gap took over with Tennessee outscoring Cincinnati 28-3 across the second and third quarters (2 TDs in each quarter).
Overall, Tennessee QB Tyler Bray completed 34-41 passes, for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns with no turnovers. Two WRs caught 10 passes each each (Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rodgers). They combine for 256 of Bray’s 400 yards and 3 of his 4 touchdowns.
For Cincinnati, Collaros completed 21-34, 230 yards and 2 TDs. Outside of his 65 yard TD run, Pead carried the ball just 13 times for 90 yards. Robinson and WR Anthony McClung caught Collaros’ 2 touchdown passes. DJ Woods led the team in catches (9) and yards (111).
#9 Oklahoma - 2008
The 2008 season for Cincinnati was historic. Coming off a 10 win season in 2007 (their first since 1951), Bearcats had real goals and expectations and ultimately won the Big East championship and played in the Orange Bowl.
However, before all of that happened, this was a rough game. For many reasons. The final score was 52-26, but that felt secondary on this day because QB Dustin Grutza was carted off with a devastating leg injury that would end his season just two games into his senior year. He was replaced by Tony Pike, who, well, his story is that of a legend. But before anyone knew that, this seemed like a crushing blow to a guy who had developed into a solid QB.
After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter (this is a recurring theme here), Grutza led the Bearcats to 2 TDs in the second - 1 rushing and a 14 yard pass to Dominick Goodman to help close to the gap to get Cincinnati down 21-13 at the half.
Oklahoma and Cincinnati exchanged TDs to start the third quarter, and it was 28-20 with 10 minutes to go in the third.Sooners would wake up and rattle off 24 answers and ultimately win 52-26.
Sam Bradford threw 5 touchdowns for Oklahoma - TE Jermaine Gresham (who Cincinnati fans are familiar with) caught 2, and Ryan Broyles, Juaquin Iglesias, and Matt Clapp all caught one.
Another recurring them, beyond the early deficits, has been that the run game is completely non-existent in these games. John Goebel and Jacob Ramsey both identically ran 8 times for 27 yards.
Mardy Gilyard returning a kick 97 yards for a TD in the third and caught 7 passes for 119 yards.
#11 Virginia Tech - 2006
2006 was a bowl year for Cincinnati. It was also coach Mark Dantonio’s final season - he would depart after the year for Michigan State. The highlight of the season was knocking off #7 Rutgers, who came in to Nippert 9-0. But before they finished with 8 wins, they started 1-3, which included back-to-back losses at #1 Ohio State and then #11 Virginia Tech the week after.
This one was definitely not like the others on this list. Cincinnati actually led entering the fourth quarter. A blocked punt led to a safety and the Hokies capitalized on the turnover with a field goal to end the first quarter up 5-0. With 3 minutes to go in the half, RB Greg Moore ran one in from 5 yards out to give Cincinnati the lead and kicker Kevin Lovell knocked in a 34 yard field goal in the final minutes to give Cincinnati a 10-5 lead over the #11 team in the country at halftime.
Hokies opened the second half with a quick 5 play, 70 yard touchdown drive in 1:23 to retake the lead. Cincinnati would add another field goal and it was 13-12 Cincinnati after three quarters.
Hokies would wake up and outscore Cincinnati 17-0 in the fourth quarter, to win 29-13.
On a quiet offensive day for Cincinnati, Dustin Grutza threw 2 interceptions and threw for only 159 yards. RBs Butler Benton and Greg Moore combined for 25 carries and 100 yards. A pair of tight ends each caught three passes - Brent Celek (45 yards) and Connor Barwin (36 yards)
Penn State - 2005
2005 was Cincinnati’s first season as part of the Big East, after spending 9 years in Conference USA. In week two, they traveled to Penn State. Penn State once beat Cincinnati 81-0 back in 1991 and that kind of experience can scar a program and scare them forever. But the Bearcats battled hard in this one.
This was another game that was started by QB Dustin Grutza and another where the Bearcats came out slowly. The difference is Penn State was slow too, and led 14-3 at the half. The game was certainly in reach for Cincinnati, but Penn State came out and scored 28 points in the second half, led by QB Michael Robinson’s 4 total touchdowns (3 pass, 1 run).
It was also another instance where the running game was a complete non factor as 4 RBs combined for 18 carries and 37 yards (Butler Benton, Mike Daniels, Greg Moore, Bradley Glatthaar).
Brent Celek led the way with 7 catches and 73 yards and Connor Barwin caught 2 passes for 72 yards. Grutza’s 2 TD passes were caught by WR Earnest Jackson and Derick Ross.