Cincinnati – With the Louisville Cardinals driving to make the contest a three-score game, defensive end Walter Stewart came up with probably the biggest play of the game – a tipped pass that led to an interception.
Cincinnati scored 18 unanswered second half points to earn its first-ever victory at Paul Brown Stadium, 25-16, Saturday. The win enabled the Bearcats’ seniors to leave Cincinnati without ever losing to the Cardinals.
For the second straight game, the Bearcats offense was struggled to find traction in the first half, and thanks to a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown, momentum was wearing white jersey’s. The Cardinals had picked up two first downs and driven into Cincinnati territory when Stewart’s deflection landed into the hands of cornerback Dominique Battle.
While UC wasn’t able to put points on the board following the interception, it marked the last time Louisville would venture into Cincinnati territory when it mattered. The final completion of the game took the ball down to the Cincinnati 34. Louisville only managed four first downs for the rest of the contest as the Bearcats defense didn’t allow the Cardinals a touchdown all game.
With Cincinnati’s defense whooping UofL’s offense all around the Paul Brown Stadium turf, it was time for the offense to finally break through. Following a 28-yard punt, Cincinnati took position near midfield and turned the drive into its longest scoring drive of the game. Quarterback Zach Collaros capped the seven-play, 54-yard drive with an one-yard touchdown on fourth down.
“We had a play called,” said head coach Butch Jones. “We had a personnel grouping in and didn’t like the look of it. I just thought for the momentum of the game, we needed a spark and the touchdown. I had great faith in our defense in that if we didn’t get it we’d get the ball back in great scoring position.”
The huge decision to go for it on fourth down and the subsequent conversion helped the Bearcats turn the tide of the contest en route to the Homecoming victory.
HUGE FOURTH QUARTER: When Cincinnati needed its running game the most, senior Isaiah Pead and the offensive line took over. Aided by his 50-yard run that gave the Bearcats’ their first lead of the game with 12:19 remaining in the game, Pead ran for 99 yards in the fourth quarter alone. He finished with 151 yards on 20 carries for his eighth 100-yard rushing game of his career.
“I think we took their will away in the fourth quarter,” said Pead.
PERFECTLY PLACED PUNT: Punter Tom O’Donnell played a key role in helping Cincinnati change field position. With the Cardinals only having nine players on the field, O’Donnell had his punt downed on the one yardline. The defense held Louisville to three-and-out, giving Cincinnati great field position which was turned into six points.
SHORT AND EFFECTIVE: Cincinnati played the field position battle perfectly and it helped as none of their four scoring drives were over 54 yards. The Bearcats had scoring drives of 54, 50, 40 and 37 yards. The 50 yard drive lasted only two plays as Pead took the second play of the drive 50 yards for a touchdown.
MILLIGAN RETURNS PUNTS: After D.J. Woods recovered his second muffed punt of the game, Jones decided to use Danny Milligan to field punts with Cincinnati leading by six points with 11:20 remaining.