BIG EAST Champions!|
Dec. 3, 2011
CINCINNATI - The University of Cincinnati football team (9-3, 5-2 BIG EAST) won the BIG EAST Conference Championship for the third time in four years when it defeated Connecticut (5-7, 3-4 BIG EAST), 35-27, on Saturday, Dec. 3 at Nippert Stadium.
The defense was the story all afternoon, which recorded 13 tackles for loss and six sacks. Senior linebacker JK Schaffer led with 11 tackles, giving him 104 for the season, while senior defensive tackle Derek Wolfe has 10 tackles, a career-best 5.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. The defense scored two touchdowns against the Huskies, bringing its season total to six.
On the offensive side, sophomore quarterback Munchie Legaux and sophomore wide receiver Anthony McClung finished with career highs. Legaux completed 15-of-35 passes for a career-best 217 yards and three touchdowns, while McClung had a career-high 142 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches.
On the Huskies opening possession, two penalties pinned the visitors as their own five-yard line. Faced with third-down, Stewart took the ball directly from quarterback Johnny McEntee's hands in the end zone to give the hosts the early 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
During the Bearcats next drive, Legaux found McClung on a 36-yard reception, but turned the ball over two plays later when Angelo Pruitt tipped and picked off his pass at the UConn 23-yard line. However, the defense stood tall and denied any Husky posts with a three-and-out.
The UC defense continued to dominate, this time by way of junior safety Drew Frey, who picked off McEntee and ran it in for his first career touchdown to give the Bearcats the 14-0 lead with just over one minute remaining in the first quarter.
The offense followed suit on its next possession, as Legaux marched his team down the field in a six-play, 58-yard drive, capped by a 22-yard touchdown to freshman wide receiver Alex Chisum to increase the Cincinnati lead, 21-0, with 13:13 left in the half.
The first hiccup in an otherwise day of all red and black was when senior running back Isaiah Pead fumbled to give UConn the ball at the UC 10-yard line. But the defense - as it had done all day - denied the touchdown and held the Huskies to a 35-yard field goal to make the score 21-3 with 7:39 to go before the break.
UC kept rolling as Legaux connected with McClung three times on its next possession, including a 13-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-3 with less than two minutes remaining.
The teams exchanged possession before Connecticut concluded the half with a 46-yard field goal to make the score 28-6 heading into the locker room.
The Huskies were field-goal scoring machines, as they tacked on their third and fourth field-goals of the afternoon to decrease the deficit, 28-12, with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter. But the UC offense hit its stride - once again - taking just 59 seconds for Legaux and McClung to connect for another touchdown to increase the margin, 35-12, with less than one minute remaining in the quarter.
The Huskies tried to stage a comeback in the final quarter, scoring touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to chip away at the Cincinnati lead, 35-27, but the visitors came up short and the Bearcats held on for the victory.
With the win, UC improves to 9-3 (5-2 BIG EAST) on the season and clinches a share of the 2011 BIG EAST Conference Championship.