Cincinnati Football News: Bearcats still seeking first Big 12 win as Baylor Bears come to town

The Bearcats face the Bears for the first time in history

October 18, 2023

CINCINNATI – When the Cincinnati football team welcomes Baylor to Historic Nippert Stadium at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday (Big 12 Now on ESPN+) both teams will be aiming to win their third game of the season.

The Bearcats (2-4, 0-3) are looking to stop a four-game slide and pick-up their first-ever Big 12 Conference victory, while the Bears (2-4, 1-2) are coming off a bye and hoping to bounce back from a 39-14 setback to Texas Tech on Oct. 7.

First-year head coach Scott Satterfield and the Bearcats are devoting all their energy to preparing for Baylor this week as they move on from a 30-10 defeat to Iowa State at home last weekend.

“Our mindset is 1-0 mentality,” Satterfield said. “You have to have a singular focus. We have to stay focused, today is a Tuesday practice and whatever we can do to get better today and try to be 1-0 this week. We can’t be looking back. We have to learn obviously from what we’ve done in the past and we can’t be looking ahead to a week from now or two weeks from now. It’s right here, right in this moment, right now what can we do to be the best we possibly can be. So, that’s kind of where our focus is, and all focus is on beating Baylor and that’s where we’re at.”

Baylor finished 12-2 and No. 5 in the country in 2021, winning the Sugar Bowl. The Bears famously defeated Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game, helping keep Cincinnati in the top four in the College Football Rankings and propel the Bearcats to the CFP Semifinals and the Cotton Bowl Classic.

This year, Baylor has relied heavily on newcomers and freshmen. The Bears had 19 players make their starting debut in the first three games of the year, while 20 freshmen saw action.

Baylor is led by junior quarterback Blake Shapen, the 2021 Big 12 Championship Most Outstanding Player, who passed for 2,790 yards and 18 TDs en route to honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in 2022.

Shapen was injured in the season-opener and missed three games before returning to lead Baylor to a 36-35 comeback victory at UCF on Sept. 30. The Bears trailed 35-7 midway through the third quarter in Orlando and scored 29 unanswered points to complete the biggest comeback in school history.

“Coach [Dave] Aranda does a great job,” Satterfield said. “He’s an outstanding football coach. They have lost some tough games… They are coming off a bye week so I’m sure they are going to be fresh and healthy and ready to go. I believe that this game is going to come down to who wants it more. It is going to come down to who is hungry in this week of preparation and who really wants this game. We must do a better job with our energy and our attention to detail as we come out to play this game this weekend.”


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All-America defensive tackle Dontay “The Godfather” Corleone asked to stay at the podium following his media availability on Tuesday to deliver a message to fans to stick by the Bearcats as they work to get back in the win column.

“Cincinnati fans, I know you weren’t expecting this, this year as far as our record,” Corleone said. “I just want you all to stay with us. We’re going to face adversity, but we need everybody in the stadium, packing it up. I need you to show up.”

Corleone, a Cincinnati native, has 22 tackles and 4.5 TFLs through six games in 2023. He was a preseason All-American and preseason All-Big 12 selection following a 2022 campaign where he totaled 45 tackles and 5.5 TFLs, while being earning mention from Pro Football Focus as the highest-graded defensive player in the country (92.7).


Satterfield announced on Tuesday that redshirt junior cornerback Sammy Anderson will be out for the remainder of the season due to injury. Anderson was injured in the season-opener against Eastern Kentucky. Anderson had earned the starting nod at cornerback after an outstanding fall camp during which he earned praise from the coaching staff as one of the top defensive players at Higher Ground.

“I know this is tough on Sammy, he’s a big-time competitor, and he obviously wants to be out there and helping his team,” Satterfield said. “Unfortunately, he won’t be able to do that this season. I do want to talk a little bit about [Senior Associate AD/Sports Medicine Aaron Himmler], our medical team and our staff and how they do an outstanding job with our student-athletes. They have been doing their due diligence going over everything they possibly can to figure this out for Sammy, but unfortunately, he will not be able to continue to play. I appreciate the work that our medical team does, and how to care for our student-athletes. They always have their best interests in mind.”


Cincinnati is rushing for 202.7 yards per game to rank No. 16 in the nation and No. 4 in the Big 12.

The Bearcats have been incredibly stout against the run, too, allowing opponents just 104.2 rushing yards per game to rank No. 17 in the country and No. 1 in the Big 12. In conference-only games, UC is allowing only 98.7 rush yards per game – the fewest in the league by 30 yards.

Cincinnati is allowing opponents only 2.96 yards per rush in three league games – also the best in Big 12 games.

The Bearcats also rank No. 11 in time of possession (32:45) overall and No. 30 nationally in total offense (444.0).

UC ranks 36th nationally and third in the Big 12 in total defense (334.3).


Fifth-year senior defensive end Jowon Briggs and redshirt sophomore nose tackle Dontay “The Godfather” Corleone were both named team captains this fall.

Both were named All-AAC First Team during a 2022 season where they rotated at the nose tackle spot.

Briggs, a married father of three, moved to defensive end for the 2023 season. He was named to the PFF College National Team for Week 1 of the 2023 season.

Corleone was the highest-rated defensive player in the country (92.7 grade) according to PFF in 2022.

Grzesiak leads Cincinnati with 3.5 sacks this season. He has 19.5 sacks in his career, including 8.5 at Utah State in 2022. He is coming of a two-sack game versus Iowa State.


The Bearcats have had 14 different starters on defense. Sammy Anderson Jr. had moved from nickel to the top cornerback spot but has been inactive since Week 1 due to injury. Ken Willis took over one game for Deshawn Pace at the “star” position, and Jonathan Thompson earned his first-career nod against Iowa State.

Offensively, UC has had three different tight ends earn starts, typically depending on the formation. The only line movement was Penn grad transfer Trevor Radesovich at center for the opener. WR Donovan Ollie, who had 24 starts at Washington State, got his first bump to open the Iowa State game.

TE Payten Singletary and RB Ryan Montgomery are the only Bearcats with receiving TDs at UC prior to this year.

Center Gavin Gerhardt was the only returning start on offense from a year ago, as UC welcomed 10 new starters on that side of the ball, including first-year transfers: QB Emory Jones (Florida, Arizona State), OG Luke Kandra (Louisville), RT Deondre Buford (Kentucky), WR Dee Wiggins (Louisville, Miami), WR Xzavier Henderson (Florida) and WR Braden Smith (Louisville).

Redshirt junior LT John Williams, redshirt junior TE Payten Singletary and redshirt sophomore TE Chamon Metayer are the only offensive starters who entered this season with more than one year of experience playing at UC.


Any way you look at it over the last five, 10, 15 and 20 years – UC has proven to be one of the nation’s top programs.

Cincinnati is the 19th-winningest program since 2013 (the last 10 years) with a record of 88-45 (67%), winning three conference championships and advancing to eight bowls, including two New Year’s Six bowls in that time frame.

The Bearcats became the first-ever “Group of Five” team to advance to the College Football Playoff in 2021, defeating No. 9 Notre Dame on the road and finishing undefeated in the regular season along the way.

Since 2008, Cincinnati has the 15th-most wins in college football (last 15 years) with a 135-63 (68%) mark. The Bearcats have won an astounding seven conference championships over the last 15 years with only Oklahoma (nine), Ohio State (eight), Alabama (eight) and Clemson (seven) matching that feat. UC also has four NY6 bowl appearances and three AP Top 10 finishes in that time.

Cincinnati (2021) is one of only 15 teams ever to play in the College Football Playoff and join Oklahoma (2016, 2019, 2020) and TCU (2022) as the only current Big 12 teams to ever qualify for College Football’s Final Four.