So there is good football being played in Cincinnati. The University of Cincinnati Bearcats remain in control of their own destiny for a Big East Championship and a berth to a BCS Bowl game after a 28-20 win over the Louisville Cardinals. These kids play it cool and collected, coming through when it matters the most.
Last week, against West Virginia, the Bearcats watched a 20-7 lead fall in the game's final 1:11. Terrill Byrd's third down sack in overtime forced the Mountaineers to kick a field goal during the opening overtime possession. After quarterback Tony Pike completed a 10-yard pass to Dominick Goodman (added with a Mountaineers personal foul), the Bearcats lined up with a first-and-goal at the West Virginia seven-yard line. Pike hit Kazeem Alli two plays later, scoring a touchdown to win the game by three points in overtime.
The momentum was clearly West Virginia's heading into overtime, scoring a touchdown (seven plays, 61 yards in 0:53) and a two-point conversion on a Pat White run. After the Mountaineers recovered an on-side kick, White hit Dorrell Jalloh for 21 yards setting up a Pat McAfee 52-yard field goal that sent the game into overtime. Did the Bearcats fold and panic? No. The defense held forcing an overtime field goal and the offense scored a touchdown winning only their second game in 17 all-time meetings between the two.
It seemed that the Bearcats were bound to struggle in their claim for the Keg of Nails, during a driving rain against the Louisville Cardinals Friday night. The Bearcats offense turned the ball over four times -- three inside the Bearcats own 20-yard line. Place kicker Jake Rogers missed three field goals -- though weather was a huge factor -- and Tony Pike was pulled from the game after bruising his sternum in the fourth quarter. Pike left the game completing 19 of 33 passes for 250 yards passing and two touchdowns. For a time, I was worried that this would be a let-down game. I was wrong.
After allowing an opening third quarter field goal, the Bearcats defense forced the Cardinals offense to go: punt, interception, punt, missed field goal and back-to-back turnover on downs. They didn't allow the Cardinals a second-half possession to go more than 23 yards.
With 8:20 left in the game, Dustin Grutza replaced an injured Pike and completed a critical third down pass -- 24 yards to Dominick Goodman who finished the game with 134 yards receiving on nine receptions and a touchdown. On the following play, running back John Goebel rushed for 37 yards, scoring a six-yard touchdown on the next play. That gave the Bearcats an eight-point lead. After the Cardinals were stuffed on a fourth-down quarterback sneak, and the Bearcats missed another field goal attempt, Louisville quarterback Hunter Cantwell threw four straight incomplete passes sealing the Bearcats win.
The Bearcats head to Pittsburgh next Saturday for what could be the Big East title game (even though they have Syracuse and Hawaii on schedule) on ESPN 2 at 7:15 p.m. If the Bearcats win out, they'll win the conference title and an automatic bid to a BCS Bowl game.
Damn fine football being played in Cincinnati.
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