No. 14 Cincinnati beats Fresno St. 28-20
CINCINNATI (AP)—Tony Pike was on the field just long enough to save No. 14 Cincinnati.
Pike threw three touchdown passes in a quick-strike offense that was hardly on the field Saturday, and the Bearcats held on for a 28-20 victory over a Fresno State team that ran all over them for most of the game. One big gamble made the Bulldogs (1-3) come up empty.
Facing fourth-and-2 at the Cincinnati 6-yard line to open the fourth quarter, Fresno State chose to throw. Ryan Colburn’s pass was picked off, and Pike put the Bearcats (4-0) in control with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Mardy Gilyard.
Gilyard also caught an 11-yard touchdown pass in another career day. The senior receiver and returner had nine catches for a career-best 177 yards, giving him eight touchdowns in four games.
The Bulldogs’ strategy was to keep one of the nation’s top offenses off the field. It nearly succeeded. Cincinnati came in averaging 48 points per game, fourth-best nationally, but was on the field for only 16:18. With Ryan Mathews grinding out the yards, the Bulldogs held the ball for 43:42.
That fourth-down play made it not quite good enough.
Mathews carried a career-high 38 times for 145 yards, topping the 100-yard mark for the fourth straight game. He was the Bowl Subdivision’s leading rusher coming in, averaging 149 yards per game. His ability to find holes behind 270-pound fullback Reynard Camp kept Cincinnati on the defensive all game.
Fresno State had the fourth-best running game in the nation, and showed it wouldn’t be pushed around by churning out a 17-play drive that took more than eight minutes in the second quarter. Colburn’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Jamel Hamler—uncovered in the middle of the field—cut it to 21-17 with 7 seconds left before halftime.
Cincinnati’s offense had the ball for only one minute in the third quarter— a three-and-out drive that put the whole burden on the defense. Linebacker Craig Carey’s first career interception on Fresno State’s pivotal fourth-down pass helped the Bearcats improve to 25-0 under coach Brian Kelly when they open the fourth quarter with a lead.
The Bearcats’ no-huddle offense needed only 2:12, 1:43, 2:53 and 1:45 to zip down the field for its touchdowns, giving the defense little rest. The game was in the hands of that tired crew after Fresno State got the ball back at its 7-yard line following a punt with 3:55 to go.
Colburn’s fourth-down pass from the Cincinnati 37 was broken up by safety Aaron Webster with 39 seconds left, clinching it.