TAMPA, Fla. -- Cincinnati won an incredibly topsy-turvy game against USF 37-34 to take over sole possession of first place in the Big East and become bowl eligible to boot.
A game that was poorly played in the first half turned into one of the most exciting games in the Big East this season. The fourth quarter alone featured three lead changes, none more definitive than the final drive that Cincinnati scored on to take the win.
After B.J. Daniels threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to true freshman Andre Davis with 1:27 to go to take a 34-30 lead, Zach Collaros marched the Bearcats 70 yards on seven plays, and scored on 2 yards out for the game-winning touchdown. Earlier in the quarter, Collaros had another rushing touchdown and a 30-yard touchdown pass to Alex Chisum to erase a 27-17 deficit and take a 30-27 lead.
Both drives were aided by multiple personal foul calls on USF. The game-winning drive had USF flagged for pass interference in the end zone, setting up the rushing score by Collaros -- who ended up with five total touchdowns on the day.
Collaros rebounded from a terrible first half in which he threw two interceptions -- including one in the end zone -- to post his first 300-yard game of the season. He had to be more effective, because USF did a nice job shutting down Isaiah Pead, holding him to 3.6 yards a carry.
B.J. Daniels threw an interception midway through the fourth quarter that made Bulls fans groan. But after forcing a Bearcats punt with about 3 minutes left, the Bulls found the moxie deep within to drive 83 yards down the field. That included a huge 21-yard flip pass from Daniels to Demetris Murray as it appeared Daniels was going down. Daniels also finished with over 400 yards passing as the ground game also was ineffective for the Bulls.
USF (4-3) has now dropped three straight and falls to 0-3 in conference. For Cincinnati (6-1, 2-0), the Bearcats are going back to a bowl after a disappointing 4-8 and have been one of the most surprising stories in the Big East. There was plenty that went wrong for both teams, from too many penalties, to too many turnovers, to too many mistakes on special teams.
But Cincinnati surely will take this huge victory.