The Bearcats will look to win their 32nd straight game on Friday at 8 p.m.
CINCINNATI – Donning all black uniforms in front of a sold-out crowd, the Cincinnati football team will look to extend its home win streak to 32 games on Friday night when East Carolina comes to Nippert Stadium for an 8 p.m. American Athletic Conference matchup.
The Bearcats are coming off a bounce-back 20-10 victory over Navy in which junior wide receiver Tyler Scott tied his career-best with 10 receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns, while redshirt senior quarterback Ben Bryant threw for 299 yards.
The Blackcats defense held Navy’s vaunted triple-option rushing attack to just 3.3 yards per carry as redshirt freshman NT Dontay Corleone recorded a career-best 11 tackles and senior LB Ivan Pace Jr. stuffed the stat sheet with 15 tackles, including three TFLs and two sacks. Sophomore punter Mason Fletcher averaged 49.8 on four punts and had a punt downed at the 1.
The Bearcats will be primed for an ECU team coming of a 13-day layoff following a 27-24 win over BYU. The Pirates have won three straight to get back into the AAC Championship hunt.
Cincinnati will look to stop a powerful Pirates’ offense led by quarterback Holton Ahlers (2,632 yards, 18 TDs, 70.1 completion percentage) and running back Keaton Mitchell (three straight 100-yard games).
“They have won close games; they have won in overtime,” Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell said about the Pirates. “I think that the thing that you are seeing now is they are winning those games at the end.
From the two overtime wins, momentum is a big deal, and they have done a really good job. They have played really well, especially at the end of the season for the last few years. We know what we know we are going to get a great shot and what we have seen on film and something even a little bit better. Regardless of if they are coming off a bye week or not, this has been a unique one for both sides for a few years now.”
The Bearcats have won four straight against the Pirates, grabbing a 35-13 victory in Greenville, N.C. a year ago, after winning 55-17 in Cincinnati in 2020.
A win Friday night will go a long way towards seeing what two teams will play in the AAC Championship. At 4-1 in the league, UC is tied for second in the conference with No. 22 UCF. The Knights play first-place No. 16 Tulane (5-0) on Saturday. ECU, Houston and SMU are all tied for fourth at 3-2.
Fickell is excited the Bearcats have the opportunity to potentially play in a fourth straight AAC Championship down the stretch.
“That’s what you love,” Fickell said. “That’s what you want our kids to love. This is what you prepare for, the ability to be in a race and it’s much better when it is a race. Then there are a lot of twists and turns I think it’s better for everybody. It’s better for college football. It’s better for the league. More than anything, you see who can handle those things down the stretch. Our guys all understand what’s at stake.”
Cincinnati faces ECU at 8:05 p.m. ET on Friday at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 with Roy Philpott (play-by-play), Andre Ware (analyst) and Paul Carcaterra on the call.
On radio, Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Jim Kelly, Jr. (analyst) are on the call for the Bearcats Sports Network. The game will be broadcast on 700 WLW.
A WIN WOULD….
Give Cincinnati 32 consecutive home wins – the nation’s second-longest active home winning streak (Clemson, 38).
NOTING THE PIRATES
ECU will have 13 days off between its 27-24 win over BYU and its matchup with Cincinnati.
The Pirates have won three straight – a 4OT victory over Memphis, a 35-13 win over current-No. 22 UCF and BYU.
RB Keaton Mitchell has rushed for 100 yards in three straight games. He leads the AAC in rushing (107.88) with nine TDs.
Powered by sixth-year QB Holton Ahlers (2,632 yds, 18 TDs, 70.1%), the Pirates rank 20th in the nation in total offense (467.2).
Last Season: The Bearcats defeated the Pirates, 35-13, at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium as Lenny Taylor and Ryan Montgomery both scored TDs and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner scooped a blocked FG by Arquon Bush and ran it back 60 yards for a TD.
Last time in Nippert: UC won 55-17 on Nov. 13, 2020, totaling 653 total yards as Desmond Ridder accounted for four TDs, including a pass to Tre Tucker. Cincinnati’s defense held Ahlers to just 87 passing yards with three INTs.
SETTING THE PACE ON DEFENSE
Senior linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. leads the nation in TFLs (19.0) and sacks (9.0) and ranks eighth in tackles (97). He paces a Blackcats defense that ranks third in the country in TFLs (8.4 per game) and fourth in sacks (3.56). UC also ranks fourth in yards per play allowed (4.34). UC is 19th in pass defense (180.9) 22nd in total defense (322.6) and 25th in scoring defense (21.0).
The Bearcats lead the country with four defensive touchdowns.
The Bearcats’ 11 sacks at Tulsa on Oct. 1 are the most against an FBS team this season and tied the AAC record.
RS Freshman NT Dontay Corleone (39 stops, 5.5 TFLs) is the nation’s highest-graded defensive player per PFF (92.9). He rotates with starter Jowon Briggs (45 tackles, 5.5 TFLs). Pace Jr. is the second-highest graded defensive player per PFF (92.4).
YOU’VE GOT TO PUNT IT UP
Sophomore punter Mason Fletcher may be the nation’s top punter. His 47.5 average ranks third in the nation, while UC’s net punting average of 45.54 ranks second. He has two punts downed at the 1-yard line and 22 punts inside the 20.
He set UC and AAC records against SMU with his career-long 84-yard punt (the second-longest by a player in the FBS this season) and his 65.0 average on three punts (highest average in FBS in 2022). He is a two-time AAC Special Teams POTW.
NUMBERS AND NOTES …
Four-year Cincinnati football student-athletes have a 100% graduation rate under head coach Luke Fickell.
UC has won a league title seven times in the last 14 years and has played in 12 bowl games in the past 15 years.
Cincinnati is 657-597-50 (.523) all-time.
UC is playing its 135th football season in 2022. The Bearcats program dates to 1885 and is one of the 10 oldest in FBS.
WR Tyler Scott has three 100-yard games – all in Cincinnati (two at Nippert, one at Paycor). His eight TD catches rank 10th nationally. He has 13 career TDs with 12 coming in Cincinnati, including 11 in Nippert.
RB Charles McClelland’s 6.38 ypc average ranks 11th nationally. He has three 100-yard games in 2022 and five in his career.
COURTESY UC ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS