Less than a week after suffering a devastating loss at the hands of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the Cincinnati Bearcats rebounded in a big way against South Florida on senior night.
The Bearcats (8-3, 4-2 Big East) found themselves out of the race to secure the Big East’s BCS bowl berth after falling to Rutgers last Saturday, but with a potential ten win season still on the line, the Bearcats had plenty to play for.
“We didn’t turn the football over on offense,” said Jones. “That’s the formula for winning. We did much better on both sides of the ball tonight and I was proud of the way we played.”
The game got off to a slow start for both teams, with untimely penalties dooming the Bearcats on their first drive of the game.
The defense was solid from the beginning, though, stifling the Bulls’ (3-8, 1-5 Big East) offense and eventually swinging early momentum in the Bearcats’ favor with a fumble recovery inside of the Bulls’ 20-yard line.
The Bearcats would capitalize when quarterback Brendon Kay scrambled 19 yards for the go-ahead score late in the first quarter.
The two teams would then fall into an offensive nightmare. There were combined 10 punts in under 26 minutes of play as the game drifted toward halftime.
The Bearcats would mount one final drive prior to halftime, however, and take a 13-0 lead on a Travis Kelce touchdown grab from three yards out – the ensuing extra point was no good.
In the second half, both offenses continued to struggle for the most part.
The Bulls would get on the board first via a 25-yard field goal from Maikon Bonani, but their offense never found any sort of rhythm against a stingy Bearcat defense that allowed only 303 total yards to the Bulls, most of which came in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve surrendered some yards this year, but we’re very resilient,” said Jones. “We find ways to make plays at the end. We just finished our 9th game in a row. We’ve had to rely on a lot of new faces out there, but no matter who’s out there our expectation never changes.”
The Bearcats would pull away in the fourth quarter after two George Winn touchdown runs on consecutive possessions put the Bearcats in front by 24.
Bearcat quarterback Brendon Kay’s favorite target was tight end Travis Kelce. The senior Tight End caught 7 passes for 58 yards and a score. With those 52 yards, Kelce officially moved into first place on Cincinnati’s all-time list for receiving yards by a tight end in a season.
Fellow senior Kenbrell Thompkins also added 57 yards on three catches.
George Winn led the team in rushing; carrying 21 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns, marking the fifth time this season Winn has eclipsed the century mark.
After a victory on Friday night, the Bearcats next test lies in the form of the Connecticut Huskies who host the Bearcats next weekend in the regular season final for both teams.
A win against the Huskies would give the Bearcats win number nine on the year and a chance to earn their fourth 10-win season in the last five years in a bowl game.