CINCINNATI -- Dustin Grutza made Cincinnati's quarterback transition go smoothly Thursday night, throwing for three touchdowns and running for another in a 40-7 victory over Eastern Kentucky that eased the Bearcats' biggest concern -- at least for now.
They didn't miss Ben Mauk on this night.
A few hours after Mauk appealed to an NCAA committee for another season of eligibility, his backup had a career night. Grutza set a career high with his three touchdown passes in the first half, helping Cincinnati (1-0) get off to a fast start.
The senior threw touchdown passes of 15 and 47 yards to Mardy Gilyard, who had never caught more than one in a game. The last one came off the same type of play that Mauk ran so well last year, a play-action rollout that let Gilyard get behind the coverage.
Eastern Kentucky (0-1), the defending Ohio Valley Conference champs, had trouble against a defense that was one of the nation's best last season. The Bearcats were missing tackle Terrill Byrd, suspended for the opener because of a marijuana citation.
Allan Holland, the OVC's offensive player of the year last season, was 12-of-17 for 141 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown pass to Cody Watts after the Colonels trailed 40-0. Sophomore running back Aaron Bradley hurt his right knee in the first half and didn't return.
Grutza was the starting quarterback in 2006, but lost his job late that season and never got it back. Mauk led the Bearcats to 10 wins and a No. 17 final ranking last year, then set about trying to gain one more season of eligibility. The NCAA has turned down his appeals four times so far.
Mauk talked to its reinstatement committee by phone on Thursday afternoon, his last chance for a reversal. Mauk, a graduate student, was on the sideline in jeans and a gray football T-shirt.
Grutza led the Bearcats to touchdowns on their first three drives. He left the game after directing a 20-play drive that culminated in his 2-yard touchdown run, making it 33-0 late in the third quarter. Grutza was 21-of-28 for a career-high 296 yards.
The game drew 26,913 fans to a 35,000-seat stadium, a disappointment for a program coming off a breakthrough year. The Bearcats drew 20,223 for their opener last season, a 59-3 win over Southeast Missouri State.
There was a momentary fright when the Bearcat mascot parachuted into the stadium before the kickoff. The parachute got tangled in the wire that holds up the net behind the goal post, leaving the costumed man dangling. The parachute slid loose after a few seconds, and the mascot landed feet-first, fell to his back and jumped up.