Nov. 10, 2007
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CINCINNATI (AP) -A desperate defense hit Ben Mauk and his surgically fixed passing arm every chance it got. Nothing gave him a pause.
Mauk threw for three touchdowns and ran for another Saturday night, leading Cincinnati to a 27-3 victory over No. 16 Connecticut that further scrambled the Big East race.
The league's last unbeaten team went down. Hard.
"All we did was play fast," Bearcats safety Haruki Nakamura said. "We didn't do anything special. We knew we needed to make a statement against this team. We came out and basically put a pounding on them."
The Huskies (8-2, 4-1) also put a pounding on Mauk, who broke his arm and dislocated his shoulder last season at Wake Forest. He still has a plate and eight screws in the arm, and three metal anchors in his shoulder.
Couldn't tell by the way he played.
Under heavy pressure throughout the game, Mauk made the two decisive plays in the second half. He ran 11 yards for a touchdown on a draw play, then connected with Dominick Goodman on a 37-yard touchdown pass, keeping Cincinnati (8-2, 3-2) in a crowd of teams vying for the league title.
"Ben had to make some plays with his feet, he was smart with the football, he got rid of it when he needed to," coach Brian Kelly said. "I thought he was on top of his game tonight. I think in a big-game situation, that's the best I've seen him play."
Connecticut likes to grind out wins with a methodical, mistake-free approach. The Huskies had only 10 turnovers coming into the game, a big reason they were off to the best start in their 109-year football history.
An interception set this one on course early.
Defensive end Anthony Hoke tipped one of Tyler Lorenzen's passes to teammate Adam Hoppel, who returned the interception to the 6-yard line. Mauk's pass to Charley Howard made it 13-0 in the first quarter, setting the tone.
"It was disappointing that we had our worst effort of the season," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "But it's difficult to win when you don't win the battle at the line of scrimmage. We knew they were a physical team. We weren't flat."
The Bearcats' defense got the best in a matchup of opposites: Connecticut avoids penalties and rarely makes a mistake, while Cincinnati is the Big East's leader in piling up penalties and forcing turnovers.
Hoppel's first career interception was the Bearcats' 22nd this season. They've gotten 35 turnovers in all, setting up 120 points.
Hoke led the way, setting up the tipped interception and sacking Lorenzen three times. The Huskies had only one drive all game, and had to settle for Tony Ciaravino's 23-yard field goal after a first-and-goal from the 7-yard line.
"Man, that's just the way the cookie crumbles. It was just my night tonight," Hoke said. "I'll take it. We wanted to get after him. As a defense, we wanted to make a statement."
Both quarterbacks were under steady pressure. Lorenzen went 18-of-37 for 183 yards with only his fifth interception of the season. He didn't get much help: UConn finished with 22 yards rushing.
"We had trouble getting momentum," Lorenzen said. "When we did, we did something to hurt ourselves, whether it was penalties or bad reads."
Mauk was 21-of-33 for 276 yards, including touchdown passes of 1 and 6 yards in the first quarter. His two most important plays came off fakes.
He pump-faked and took off for an 11-yard touchdown run that made it 20-3 midway through the third quarter. Then Mauk put the game out of reach by faking a handoff and throwing the 37-yard touchdown pass to Goodman, who got behind the coverage.
Goodman finished with eight catches for 127 yards.
"They don't allow the big play," Mauk said. "They allow you to complete the underneath stuff. We tried to get them to come up for the short play, and we hit them over the top with Goodman there."
Cincinnati's eight regular-season wins are its most since 1993. The Bearcats finish the season against No. 6 West Virginia (8-1, 3-1) and at Syracuse (2-8, 1-4). Connecticut finishes at home against Syracuse and then at West Virginia.