With this Cincinnati team, getting off to a great start is crucial to future success throughout the game, and the Bearcats used an early three and out on defense to gain early momentum. Brendon Kay led the UC offense on a six play 76-yard drive that culminated in a 25-yard touchdown pass from Kay to senior tight end Travs Kelce to put the Bearcats on the board first, the only score of the first quarter. The opening defensive drive proved to not be a fluke as Cincinnati was able to hold the Huskies off the board for the remainder of the first score, taking their 7-0 lead into the second quarter.
The Bearcats wasted no time putting more points on the board in the second quarter. After forcing a UConn turnover in Huskies territory, UC went deep into the playbook, pulling out a tight end pass play in which Kelce caught a lateral and hit a streaking Brendon Kay in the end zone to take a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. The play was an indicator of the type of offense Cincinnati wanted to run, one that was unpredictable and kept the UConn defense on their toes. After allowing such a team energizing touchdown, the game began to feel like it was slipping away from the Huskies, however, this is a resilient UConn team, and they strung together two solid scoring drives, including a 74-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chandler Whitmer to Ryan Griffin, to cut the UC lead to 14-10 going into halftime.
Cincinnati received the ball to start the third quarter, and immediately gained momentum back with a seven play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Kay to Kelce, their third hookup of the day. Once again, the Bearcats offense capitalized on a red hot passing game to move the ball down the field, something they haven't been able to do in previous games. The UC defense clamped down for most of the quarter as well before allowing a late rushing touchdown with seventeen seconds left in the quarter, making the score 21-17 in favor of the Bearcats going into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter saw the Bearcats take a game that looked like it might come down to the wire into a three score lead with under five minutes to play. Cincinnati used scoring drives of fifty-one, four and forty yards to turn a 21-17 lead into the 34-17win. UC got the scoring started with a 38-yard field goal from Tony Miliano. They then followed up by forcing a turnover deep in UConn territory, and immediately capitalizing with a four-yard touchdown run by George Winn, making the score 31-17 with a little over 11 minutes left to play. At this point, the Cincinnati defense was nearly impenetrable and allowed the UC offense to play without pressure. UC tacked on a late 42-yard Tony Miliano field goal for good measure to make the final score 34-17 in favor of the Bearcats.
Although the Bearcats were eliminated from the Big East championship race with Louisville's Thursday night win over Rutgers, they showed no signs of disappointment in their play today. The passing game was a revelation for this offense, and Brendon Kay looks like he's coming into his own as a starting quarterback. Although Winn had a disappointing game statistically, he found the end zone for the third straight game, more than likely cementing his place on the all Big East team. Now, Cincinnati plays the waiting game as they look to see which bowl invitation they will receive and the future of head coach Butch Jones. Hopefully, Bearcat fans will be happy with the outcomes of both questions.