A lot was on the line for the Bearcats as they took the field for Saturday's showdown with number 16 –ranked Connecticut at Nippert Stadium. A loss and the Bearcats would be pushed further down the pecking order of bowl consideration and any shot of winning a share of the Big East title would vanish before their eyes.
Despite way too many holding penalties and constant pressure on quarterback Ben Mauk, the Bearcats returned to the team fans enjoyed early in the season using a stingy rush defense and timely scoring to defeat the Huskies in front of just over 30,000 fans 27-3.
The win sets up a Big East Showdown with West Virginia next Saturday night at Nippert in a game already sold-out. If the Bearcats can knock off the Mountaineers they'll only need to finish with a win over Syracuse to end the season and hope for a West Virginia defeat of the Huskies to set them themselves up for a share of the Big East crown and placement in a BCS game.
Here is a look at Saturday's game.
The Bearcats used the pressure applied by the front several to help keep the Huskies in check. Anthony Hoke was the leader on the night and the key reason UConn was held to 22 yards rushing on 22 attempts. The senior also recorded 3 sacks for a loss of 25 yards and broke-up a pass that ended up in the hands of Adam Hopple who returned it 16-yards to help put the Bearcats in scoring position. In all the Bearcats had seven defenders record all or part of a tackle for a loss on the night.
Fellow senior Haruki Nakamura was the team leader with 6 total tackles on the night followed by Corey Smith and Anthony Williams with 5 each.
Just like the Bearcats had done early in the season the defense gave up a few plays but stopped the Huskies from entering the end-zone.
ANTHONY HOKE – DE
Many had questions entering this week's game after a slow second half performance against South Florida in last week's game. The Bearcats looked to put those fears to rest early with their first drive that went 8-plays and 56-yards ending with a Ben Mauk to Connor Barwin 1-yard touchdown pass.
Before the quarter was over Mauk would hit pay dirt with another Bearcats receiver Charley Howard for a 6-yard pass that was set up by the Hoke tip and Hopple return. While everything looked to be going great ugliness soon popped its head into the Bearcats picture. Jake Rogers who has been struggling with his kicks missed the extra-point attempt and head coach Brian Kelly was not happy. The missed caused Kelly to turn to Brandon Yingling the rest of the game. The Mason product would connect on his two extra point attempts and may have earned him a spot the rest of the season.
While the Bearcats moved the ball well it wasn't like the games played early in the season. The constant penalties called on the Bearcats offensive line (holding) played a key role in the Bearcats losing 105 yards of offense on the night.
Overall the Bearcats offense did well as Mauk went 21-33-276 with no interceptions and 3 touchdowns on the night. The rushing attack saw Jacob Ramsey and Greg Moore share the load as each player enjoyed nice nights. Ramsey, who earned his first start last week and struggled, picked up 66 yards on the night. Moore who's seen his carries drop over the past few weeks provided another 64 yards with a strong performance averaging 6.4 yards per carry. The Trotwood-Madison product showed why he's still one of the best running backs on the roster.
But while the running attack was strong it was the play of the receiving corps that shinned on this night. Ten different Bearcats would be credited with a catch in the game. Team leader Dominick Goodman hauled in 8 passes for 127-yards and a touchdown to pace the Bearcats.
BEN MAUK – QB
UP-NEXT FOR THE BEARCATS
The Bearcats will return to the field next Saturday for the final home game of the season. West Virginia comes to town with the Bearcats looking for another victory in their pursuit of winning at least a share of the Big East Championship and BCS Bowl berth.
The sold-out contest will also provide fans the chance to saw farewell to several seniors who have become key parts of the rise of Bearcats football since they arrived on campus.
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