Cincinnati wins share of Big East -- again
December, 1, 2012
By Andrea Adelson | ESPN.com
Tell me if you have heard this one before: Cincinnati, Big East champs.
The Bearcats won at least a share of the Big East for the second consecutive season and the fourth time in the past five years with a 34-17 win over UConn on a frigid Saturday, denying the Huskies a bowl spot for the second straight season.
Neither team had much success rushing the football -- nobody went over 100 yards on the ground. Instead, both had to rely on the pass and the Bearcats are simply better in that area than the Huskies. They have been all season. UConn tried to hit some big plays early in the game, but its receivers had a hard time hanging onto the football.
Meanwhile, UConn saw first-hand why other teams have had a tough time slowing down Travis Kelce, who showed why he is the best tight end in the Big East this season. The Huskies had no answer for him, as Kelce accounted for three total touchdowns -- two receiving and one passing.
The turning point, though, came in the third quarter, after Chandler Whitmer took a shot to the head and was forced to leave the game for the second straight week. Johnny McEntee came on in relief. Last week, he was able to lead the Huskies (5-7, 2-5) to the upset win over Louisville. But this week, he threw two interceptions -- including a critical one with UConn trailing 24-17. The Bearcats (9-3, 5-2) converted that mistake into a touchdown run by George Winn, and they never looked back.
Cincinnati finishes the season in a four-way tie atop the Big East standings, declared co-champions with Rutgers, Louisville and Syracuse. The Bearcats' most likely postseason destination is the Belk Bowl in North Carolina against an ACC opponent. But perhaps the bigger question now is whether coach Butch Jones will stick around for another season.
Jones' name has come up for the openings at Purdue and Colorado. Last season, Jones turned down an offer from Illinois -- where his former athletic director is now in charge. Though Jones has continually said that he is happy with the Bearcats, this is a story that bears watching.
As for UConn, there will now be questions about whether coach Paul Pasqualoni enters next season on the hot seat. UConn made a BCS bowl in 2010 and has followed that up with consecutive 5-7 seasons. The offense leaves plenty to be desired and has led some to wonder whether offensive coordinator George DeLeone is on the hot seat himself.
The defense played well enough to make a bowl game this season. The offense did not, and now the Huskies have to re-evaluate in the offseason.