(Friday, November 13th)
Final Score: (5) Cincinnati 24, West Virginia 21
Cincinnati, OH (Sports Network) - Tony Pike threw two touchdown passes in a limited role in his return, and Isaiah Pead ran for 175 yards and a score, as fifth-ranked Cincinnati held off West Virginia, 24-21, to keep its perfect season alive.
The Bearcats moved to 10-0 for the first time in school history, improving on the 9-0 start accomplished by the current and 1951 squads. They also moved to 6-0 in the Big East and extended their regular season winning streak to 16 games.
Pike was 2-of-4 for 16 yards, as the majority of the snaps went to Zach Collaros, who finished 17-of-24 for 205 yards with an interception. Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly opted to start Collaros after he impressed in three starts in place of Pike, who is still recovering from a forearm injury.
"I think at the end of the day, Tony knew this wasn't going to be his game in totality. He was focused on that," said Kelly, who added that Pike is on track to start against Illinois on November 27.
Armon Binns and D.J. Woods caught the touchdown passes for the Bearcats, who had never before beaten West Virginia at Nippert Stadium in seven tries.
Jarrett Brown was 17-for-25 for 188 yards and a TD for the Mountaineers (7-3, 3-2), who fell off the pace in the Big East race with their second loss in three contests.
Brown also ran for a score, as did Ryan Clarke, while Brad Starks had the lone touchdown catch with 39 seconds remaining, bringing West Virginia within three points. But Binns successfully recovered the onside kick.
The Bearcats drove 73 yards for a score on its first possession of the game. Pead powered the march with four runs for 38 yards before Collaros found Ben Guidugli for 18 yards to set up a 1st-and-goal. On the next play, Pike threaded a pass to Binns in the center of the end zone as Cincinnati took a 7-0 lead.
"At first, it caught me off guard," Collaros said of the rotation. "After the touchdowns, we were messing on the sidelines that it was like basketball with the assist. As long as we score, it doesn't matter to me that it happens."
But the Bearcats struggled with mistakes in the first half, and on their next possession, tight end Adrien Robinson fumbled after making a catch.
The Mountaineers recovered near midfield, and needed seven plays to find the end zone. Brown ran it across the goal line from eight yards out with 3:19 left in the quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Cincinnati set up for a 34-yard field goal, but Jake Rogers' attempt was wide left, and again West Virginia took advantage of the turnover.
The Mountaineers went 80 yards in eight plays, as Brown kept the drive going with a 24-yard pass to Alric Arnett on 3rd-and-12. Clarke capped the march with a 37-yard TD run, putting WVU on top 14-7 with 8:05 left in the half.
Cincinnati responded with its own scoring drive. The Bearcats faced a 1st- and-25 at the WVU 29, but Collaros found Binns for 13 yards, then ran for 14 to gain the first down. Pead got into the end zone on the next play.
The Bearcats had another possession later in the half, but Collaros was intercepted, and it was a 14-14 game going to the break.
Cincinnati had the ball first in the second half and drove for a score to regain the lead for good. After Pead began the march with four consecutive rushes, Collaros took over and completed three consecutive passes for 38 yards, the last a 22-yard pass to Woods to get the ball to the six-yard line.
Pike threw a two incompletions before hitting Woods for a TD and a 21-14 lead.
The score remained that way going to the fourth, and WVU had a chance to tie the contest with a long drive. The Mountaineers used the running game to get across midfield, and Brown ran for 23 yards on a 3rd-and-12 to reach the Cincinnati 26.
But the drive stalled there, and WVU went for it on 4th-and-8. Brown, though, was hurried by Curtis Young and threw incomplete to turn the ball over. Cincinnati then drove down the field and went up 24-14 with 2:08 left on Rogers' 38-yarder.
The Mountaineers managed to score in the remaining time, going 64 yards in just 1:27 and getting into the end zone on Brown's three-yard pass to Starks in the back of the end zone.
Binns finished with five catches for 62 yards for Cincinnati...Starks had five grabs for 50 yards for WVU, while Noel Devine gained 88 yards on 25 carries...Despite the loss, WVU still holds a 14-3-1 advantage in the all-time series between the schools...Cincinnati has off next weekend before hosting Illinois on November 27. The Bearcats end the season December 5 at Pittsburgh, which sits second in the Big East at 5-0, with an 8-1 overall record...West Virginia also does not play next weekend, and hosts Pitt on November 27 before ending its season December 5 at Rutgers.
11/14 01:43:12 ET