Cincinnati came in reeling after losing two straight losses on the road to Toledo and Louisville. The Orangemen were not able to take advantage of any hangover effect the Bearcats might be feeling, fumbling The Opening kickoff. Cincinnati capitalized on the early turnover when George Winn capped off the short drive with a five-yard touchdown run. The rest of the first quarter was a back and forth affair of three and outs, until Syracuse used a fumble by Anthony McClung on a punt return to get into the end zone with a one-yard keeper by Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, making the score 7-7. Cincinnati then immediately turned the ball over again, via a Munchie Legaux interception, allowing Syracuse to start once again with great field position. This time, however, the UC defense clamped down and held Syracuse to a field goal, making the score 10-7 heading into the second quarter.
The second quarter began with an ode to Tim Tebow. Cincinnati was struggling in the passing game and opted to change things up a bit. Legaux handed the ball off to George Winn, who looked to rush straight up the middle. He then stopped, jumped, and passed the ball to a wide open Travis Kelce, who ran the ball 37 yards for the Cincinnati touchdown. It was exactly the kind of play you want to see from a struggling offense. Much like the first quarter, the meat of the second quarter was a series of stalled drives from both offenses. With Legaux struggling, UC opted to bring in wildcat quarterback Jordan Luallen, who successfully ran a few plays, including a completion to Kelce for 14 yards. Syracuse was able to put some points on the board in the form of a 14-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Nassib to Alec Lemon, making the score 17-14 in favor of the Orangemen going into halftime.
The third quarter saw both teams put together solid scoring drives for the first time all game. Cincinnati started it off with their 12 play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a 1-yard George Winn touchdown run. Syracuse answered two drives later with their own 75-yard drive, theirs taking 11 plays, with running back Jerome Smith finishing the drive with a one-yard leaping touchdown run. The Cincinnati defense then joined the party with a sack/fumble deep inside Syracuse territory, setting up the UC offense with great field position. Brendan Kay entered the game for the struggling Munchie Legaux, and promptly threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce to put UC up 28-24 going into the fourth quarter.
The rain started coming down in the fourth, affecting both teams ability to throw the ball. Luckily for the Bearcats, they have George Winn on their team, who rushed for a career high 165 yards and three touchdowns, including the clinching touchdown, a 2-yard rush at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Bearcats defense clamped down in the fourth quarter and held Syracuse scoreless, making the final score 35-24 in favor of Cincinnati.
The story of the game was the performance of Winn. In a game where Munchie Legaux struggled in the passing attack, Winn took over and became that workhouse running back fans have been clamoring for, his 30 carries being a career and season high. The game might not have been the prettiest, but the Bearcats took care of business at home, beating a solid Syracuse team, and getting back in the heat of the Big East race. Hopefully, the Bearcats will use this game as a template on how to win in the Big East. Pound the ball with Winn, and let the passing game develop as needed. We'll pay close attention to that answer going forward.