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CINCINNATI -- All the concern about Cincinnati's quarterback situation this week was misplaced. Tony Pike has been very good in the first half.
Showing no lingering effects of the broken arm that kept him out of the second half at UConn, Pike has thrown for 227 yards in the first half. He's also shown surprising mobility and touch for a guy his size (6-foot-6).
The Bearcats would probably be up even more if not for three first-half turnovers, including two fumbles by running backs Jacob Ramsey and John Goebel. South Florida has turned it over twice on a pair of Matt Grothe interceptions. His first was returned 58 yards by Mike Mickens to set up Cincinnati's first touchdown. His second came on a great play by Connor Barwin, who reached out with his left hand to tip the ball in the air, allowing Lamonte Nelms to come up with the pick.
The Bulls have surprisingly made a big commitment to the running game despite missing top backs Jamar Taylor and Mike Ford. It has worked as they've produced 108 yards on 23 carries, which includes some negative plays on sacks and failed reverses. But the passing game has struggled; Grothe is just 5-of-11 for only 71 yards. Credit the Cincinnati pass defense for shutting down throwing lanes, but Grothe and his receivers have been a little off most of the night.
South Florida just can't get out of its own way. The Bulls have already drawn six penalties and have continued their annoying habit of jumping offside on defense, which they repeatedly did at Louisville last week. They've been called for three pass interference penalties, and even worse, Cincinnati connected on two of those.
Cincinnati had gone 0-for-25 on third down in its past two games. Tonight, the Bearcats are 4-for-5. They look like they're in good shape to pull off this much-needed win.