The Hurricanes entered Thursday night’s matchup against Cincinnati as heavy favorites after winning the last 11 meetings between the two teams. Miami left Nippert Stadium embarrassed as a record 40,101 fans rushed the field to celebrate the Bearcats’ 34-23 win, the team’s first win against the Hurricanes since 1947.
Down 27-20 entering the fourth, the Canes opened the quarter with a long 12-play, 80-yard drive, but only came away with three points on a 26-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Michael Badgley.
Cincinnati responded with a devastating 81-yard touchdown drive in just five plays that was capped off by a seven-yard pass from freshman quarterback Hayden Moore to sophomore tight end Tyler Cogswell.
Down by two scores with less than seven minutes remaining, the Canes desperately needed to come away with points on their next drive. Sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya marched the team down the field all the way to Cincinnati’s five-yard line, but that’s where the drive ended. Kaaya’s pass on fourth down from the five fell incomplete, and the Canes never saw the ball again for the rest of the game.
The Canes once again struggled to convert on third downs. Miami finished 4-of-15 (27 percent) on third downs, barely above the team’s season average of 23.7 percent, which is worst in the country.
Cincinnati (3-2) outgained Miami 446 to 427 in total yards and racked up 22 first downs to 21 for the Canes.
Kaaya’s streak of 16 games with a touchdown pass to start his career came to an end Thursday night. Kaaya had a decent night with 255 yards on 24-of-39 passing, but the second-year quarterback made a number of plays he would like to have back.
The Hurricanes (3-1) opened the game with a 41-yard field goal by Badgley. The Canes gained three first downs on their first three plays, but the drive stalled inside Cincinnati’s 30 and Miami had to settle for a 3-0 lead.
The Bearcats quickly answered with two touchdowns on their first two possessions. Senior running back Hosey Williams put Cincinnati up 7-3 by breaking through a gang of Miami defenders for a 29-yard touchdown run.
Cincinnati forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and senior receiver Shaq Washington returned Miami’s punt 69 yards down to the 11-yard line. Moore found senior receiver Mekale McKay in the back of the end zone on the next play to put Cincinnati up 14-3 early. Miami didn’t trail at any point in the team’s first three games of the season.
The Canes cut the lead to eight on the next drive thanks to a 47-yard field goal by Badgley. Redshirt junior safety Rayshawn Jenkins picked off Moore on the ensuing drive to give Miami great field position at Cincinnati’s 32-yard line. It was Moore’s first incomplete pass of the game and a much needed play for Jenkins, who let Williams score on the Bearcats’ first possession.
Jenkins and senior Dallas Crawford started the first half at the safety positions due to the suspensions of senior Deon Bush and junior Jamal Carter for their targeting hits against Nebraska.
Following the interception, offensive coordinator James Coley called a trick play and had senior receiver Herb Waters pass the ball. Waters made a nice throw down the left sideline to freshman running back Mark Walton, who made the catch at the six-yard line. Walton ran in for a touchdown on the next play, his fifth of the season.
Cincinnati took a 14-13 lead into the second quarter but quickly added three points on a career long 51-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Andrew Gantz.
Sophomores Kaaya and Joseph Yearby tore apart the Cincinnati defense on the next drive to put Miami up 20-17. Yearby kicked off the drive with two hard cuts to his left on a run for 19 yards. Kaaya followed that up with a beautiful 40-yard pass down the middle to redshirt freshman tight end David Njoku. Yearby finished off the impressive drive with an eight-yard carry for his fourth touchdown of the season.
Cincinnati picked up the pace on offense and regained the lead on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Moore with 3:11 remaining in the half.
The Bearcats forced a quick three-and-out on Miami’s next possession and tacked on a 26-yard field goal to take a 27-20 lead into halftime.
Bush and Carter returned to Miami’s defense in the third quarter, and the duo immediately provided dividends. The Canes forced three three-and-outs in the quarter, recorded three sacks and only let up one first down. However, Miami wasn’t much better on offense and didn’t score in the third quarter.
Junior defensive back Corn Elder thought he tied the game in the middle of the third on a 50-yard punt return touchdown, but it was called back for holding on freshman safety Jaquan Johnson. Elder also had a punt return touchdown waived off in the season opener against Bethune-Cookman. The Canes still took over with good field position at Cincinnati’s 43-yard line, but weren’t able to do anything with it. The drive ended on a 52-yard field goal attempt by Badgley that went wide left.
This was the last non-conference game of the regular season for Miami. The Canes begin ACC play against Florida State next Saturday in Tallahassee.
Feature photo courtesy HurricaneSports.com.