The Cincinnati Bearcats locked down their 9th win of the season and got a piece of their 4th Big East championship in the last 5 seasons on Saturday with a 34-17 victory over Connecticut. That sets up a Belk Bowl matchup with the Duke Blue Devils.
On it's head, it should be a happy time for Cincinnati fans. In reality, there is a lot of talk about what's happening off the field. I'm not going to talk about anything that involves off the field stuff. I'm pulling a Butch Jones. This game was a good one for the team. The Big East championship means something. Not a lot to the fans maybe since Cincinnati winning had no tie to their BCS status and probably their bowl game. I think they would have gone Belk no matter what. But for the players and coaches, the game got them a trophy and a ring. That's pretty awesome. That gives the redshirt seniors 4 rings. Look through other conferences and see how many times that happens. Probably not a lot. This class has won a lot of games at Cincinnati. They earned one more trophy. Congratulations to all of them on a season well done.
Walter Stewart got to carry around the Big East championship trophy. The Big East championship is kind of empty, but seeing Walt carry it around with a smile on his face made it mean something. This is why we watch This is why we care. To see guys like Walter Stewart raise the trophy with his teammates and friends one last time.
The story of the game was Travis Kelce. He capped off a regular season where he broke UC records with a game that will go down in the memories of everyone who watched. Kelce kicked off scoring with a 25 yard touchdown catch. On a wonderfully designed trick play, he threw a pass to Brendon Kay for a 39 yard TD pass. After UConn cut the score to 14-10 at halftime, Kelce added a 21 yard TD catch to push the lead back to double digits. He had 5 catches for 69 yards and 2 TDs, was 1-1 passing for 39 yards and 1 TD and 1-1 in having kick ass pictures taken of him flying.
George Winn had a tough time against the UConn front, but chipped away to get 70 yards on 22 carries. He scored the knockout blow touchdown late in the 4th quarter. What Winn did in addition to his rushing was how he got a clapping Butch Jones. Winn had 55 receiving yards. He had 61 yards in the first 11 games of the season. Winn finished with 125 total yards.
Winn scored 1 rushing TD. This was the only game that he scored a touchdown in and didn't score more than 1. I expected multiples every game, George. Way to be a let down.
Anthony McClung had an excellent game. He led the team with 6 catches for 70 yards. He's played very well this season. His numbers took a hit with his early to mid season injuries. He's showing why he had a lot of hype in the preseason and why he will have a lot of hype next preseason. The thing I love about McClung is that he makes the tough catch. He can do it acrobat style, he can make the tough catch across the middle, he can take a big hit. McClung made an acrobatic 1 handed catch in this game. Keep it going, 6.
Brendon Kay was very solid. He was 19-29, 245 yards, 2 TDs. This is the type of offense where if you get smart plays from the quarterback position, you are going to be able to put up 30 points almost every time out. Kay isn't the flashiest guy in the world. But he's a solid guy. The very definition of a solid backup. I'm glad Kay got a shot to play this season.
I didn't see the injury that happened to Damon Julian, but someone told me he got rolled up on. He was carted off the field. I hope it's not the end of his Cincinnati career. He made a big 26 yard catch in the first quarter. I haven't heard an update, but getting carted off is never ideal. Speedy recovery, Damon.
Ralph David Abernathy had 3 touches. He's rushed for 25 yards on his last 8 carries, but he had 40 against Temple and 40 and 2 touchdowns against Louisville. I don't really get why he's been phased out of the offense. I know that Michael Bajakian follows me on twitter and I probably influence him a great deal (one of those things is true) but I wanted RDA IV used in ways that maximized his big play ability, not cut off all together. I think we see some trick plays with him against Duke.
The UC offense had some struggles. They had just 18 first downs. UC ran for 72 yards on 2.2 yards a rush. They were outgained by UC. The first two drives they marched down the field. Once for the score and one drive ended in a Kenbrell Thompkins fumble. They punted 5 of the next 6 drives. The TD was a short field. 4 of those drives were 3 and outs. The other was a 4 and out.
Things picked up in the second half. UC drove for a TD on their first drive. After a 3 and out, they drove for a field goal. They cashed in turnover for another touchdown. UC chewed up around 8 and a half of the final 10:19, resulting in another field goal. Halftime adjustments are good.
The Bearcats picked off 3 passes. Chris Williams had one to set up the short field touchdown that was mentioned earlier. Deven Drane had one to set up the 4 yard TD by George Winn. Drew Frey got himself one to ice the game. Big game for the secondary.
UC caught a bit of a break because Chandler Whitmer was starting to find himself. He had 274 yards on 16-31 passing before he was injured. Whitmer threw the INT to Williams. The Huskies cut the score to 21-17 on the drive Whitmer was hurt.
The defense did what they were supposed to do to the backup, harass him. Johnny McEntee was 7-16 for 73 yards and was picked off twice.
The Bearcats did a nice job of getting pressure on Whitmer and stuffing the running game. Lyle McCombs was held to 60 yards on 21 carries. Whitmer went down 4 times. Dan Giordano had 2, Nick Temple and Greg Blair had 1.
Temple had 3.5 tackles for loss. Blair had 2 tackles for loss. I'm beyond pumped up for those two to be the starting linebackers next season. They are going to raise some hell in the Big East. I'm already calling them the best linebackers in the league. Probably not true, but it's true to me.
Greg Blair did drop an INT thrown right at him. Catch the ball, Gregory.
Oh, I can't stay mad at you, 51. All is forgiven.
The Golden Toe Tony Miliano drilled field goals from 38 and 42. 38 and 42 are the number of coeds he gave his number to and the number of coeds he turned down last night. Dude gets around.
Pat O'Donnell showed off the left leg by putting 3 of his 6 punts inside the 20. He is a weapon that is going to be missed next year. UC has had some very good punters the last 6-8 years. Hopefully the line of NFL quality punters continues.
I hate watching games at UConn. It always seems dark. I know the game was at night, but the field doesn't look well lit.
I'm pretty sure Danny Milligan fumbled the punt just so I could say #Thrilligan one last time. Thanks, Danny. You could have just taken it to the house. That would have been cool too.
The announcers were god awful. Jordan Luallen came in to run the LuallenCat, which shockingly didn't work because UConn has a good defense. As he ran off the field to the sideline, the announcers said it was Bennie Coney.
This is Jordan Luallen
This is Bennie Coney
Plus, Bennie isn't playing this season.
Take a look at those Cincinnati Bearcats.
Doesn't get much better than that.
All photos via Cincinnati.com