As a runner, receiver and returner, Pead proved to be too much for SU on the way to a 30-13 win.
Ryan Nassib and the SU offense stole some momentum and got going on what appeared to be a late rally attempt, but Pead broke for a long score soon after to take the air out of the Carrier Dome on senior day.
Syracuse fell to its fourth straight defeat, the worst stretch in coach Doug Marrone's time at the helm.
"Obviosuly I'm upset," Marrone opened the press conference with. "I don't think I can even explain how I feel.
"Losing four straight games in unacceptable."
The coach went on to say, as many players echoed, how poor the 5-6 Orange were in all three phases of the game. Though the result was the same, the game did not start off as slow as usual for Syracuse.
Both offenses had little issue getting down the field on their first attempts, but neither found the end zone. Syracuse got the first crack at it, and a pair of Nassib passes to Nick Provo and Van Chew combined for 31 yards to help SU move in scoring range. A questionable non-call on what looked like pass interference and a dropped pass later, and Ross Krautman was on for a 40-yard try in which he converted.
The Bearcats offense responded with a methodical 16-play drive led by Munchie Legau, in for Collaros, though the look of the Cincinnati attack remained the same. Plenty of read-option and play-action led to chunks of yardage, but the Orange held on defense in the red zone. Kicker Tony Miliano came on for a 33-yard try, but he pushed it right.
The teams traded punts three times, with minimal success on the ground. Pead got things going for the UC early in the second quarter with a 30-yard punt return. Starting at the 50, Jordan Luallen got his chance to run the Bearcat offense, and he ran it well. The bigger quarterback gained 31 yards on four carries and completed a pair of passes for 10 yards. He appeared to have the edge on a touchdown run, but stumbled just before the goal line. Two false start penalties made it third and goal, and Legaux was back in. He tossed a fade to D.J. Woods, but it was just a bit too far for his over-stretched hands.
Miliano converted the ensuing 27-yard try to tie the game up with just over nine minutes to play in the half.
Syracuse responded on its next chance, as offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett elected to revert back to the running game with Bailey and Jerome Smith. Dorian Graham got the push started with an 18-yard reverse, and Smith combined with Bailey for 46 more yards. Once in the red zone, Nassib had a pair of passes tipped and the effort was thwarted. Krautman missed the 37-yard try, but he was run into. 5 yards closer, he made good on the attempt to put SU back on top.
Pead continued to make big plays on the next drive. He accounted for 41 yards as both a runner and receiver while Woods streaked toward the sidelines wide open soon after for a 29-yard catch and run. He hauled in a bubble screen two plays earlier for 7 yards. On third and goal from the 2, Legaux faked the ball to Pead and found an open Travis Kelce for a diving score.
UC held the momentum in the second half, and wasted no time exploiting an Orange weakness. With the kick-coverage units struggling all day, Ralph David Abernathy returned the second-half kickoff 71 yards to set up the Bearcats at the 24-yard line. From there, Pead took a zone read untouched to pay dirt.
"Isaiah Pead is a great player," Orange defensive end Chandler Jones said. "He's versatile, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and you can hand it off to him an he'll split you.
"He did a great job of out-executing us."
'Cuse did not answer offensively, suffering three-and-outs on consecutive possessions. The Bearcats got another field goal in between, as the ground game continued to gash the Orange, especially with Legaux out of the game for Luallen – who toted the rock 48 yards on one playto set up the score.
Down 23-6 after Miliano hit yet another field goal, Syracuse finally put a drive together. Nassib put the ball where it needed to be, accounting for 62 yards on the drive. The last 13 came on a flat-route to Nick Provo, who broke a tackle on the way to the end zone to make it a 10-point game.
The SU defense forced a three-and-out to hold the flow, but what looked like a promising push, ended on downs as Nassib's pass to Graham was well short of the marker with just under 10 minutes remaining.
"I probably should have taken a deeper shot," Nassib admitted. "But I thought if I hit him in stride and he broke a tackle, it would have been a huge play.
The Orange's fate would be realized soon after, as Legaux found Pead on a slip-screen that he took 69 yards for the "dagger" touchdown.
"He's probably one of the best backs in the Big East (Conference)," linebacker Dan Vaughn said. "They wanted to get him the ball on screen and in space…he was making play out there."
Nassib moved the SU attack with the game out of hand, but Alec Lemon dropped a fourth-down pass that would have gone for a score. Nassib later threw an interception before the Bearcats took over and ran the clock out.
Pead entered the game with 24 receptions, but recorded nine on Saturday for over 100 yards and a score. He finished the game with 244 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving and returning.
Bailey notched over 100 yards for the sixth time this season, but first since October 21 against West Virginia.