BYU scored on three consecutive drives, helping to power them to a 35-27 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats, in front of a sold-out crowd at Lavell Edwards Stadium on Friday night.
The Cougars entered Friday’s game with a 3-1 record (0-1 in conference), following a 38-27 road defeat against the Kansas Jayhawks last week.
The Bearcats traveled to Provo with a 2-2 record (0-1 in conference) and on a two-game losing streak, following a 20-6 home loss to the Oklahoma Sooners.
BYU opened the scoring after cornerback Jakob Robinson picked off an Emory Jones pass and returned it 42 yards, to give them a 7-0 lead. For Robinson, it was his third interception of the season.
“I actually played it wrong,” Robinson said postgame. “I passed it off, not what I was supposed to do, but I still saw it and I took it. He curled back and I just jumped it.”
Cincinnati had a chance to strike back on their next drive when they marched the ball to the BYU 37-yard line. BYU’s defense kept Cincinnati off the scoreboard though, by forcing an incomplete pass on 4th down.
The Cougars led 7-0 after the first quarter.
The Bearcats tied the game on their first drive of the second quarter, after a 26-yard pass from Jones to Chamon Metayer found the endzone, capping off a 90-yard drive for Cincinnati.
Cincinnati took the lead with 0:44 remaining in the half, after a 42-yard drive set Carter Brown up for a 33-yard field goal to give the Bearcats a 10-7 lead.
BYU responded with a 36-second, 82-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kedon Slovis to Darius Lassiter giving them a 14-10 lead with six seconds remaining in the half.
“You know, we had some things getting going and then struggled at times, but it was the last thirty seconds where we were able to find some weaknesses and just really exploit them in the second half,” said Cougars running back LJ Martin.
At the half, BYU led Cincinnati 14-10.
The Cougars picked up where they left off, scoring a touchdown on their opening drive of the second half. This time going 73 yards in 2:02, capping the drive off with a 29-yard rushing touchdown from Martin to take a 21-10 lead.
The Bearcats got within one score when a 71-yard drive stalled out at the BYU four-yard line, forcing a Brown kick to make it 21-13.
BYU again on their next drive, this time going 75 yards. Capping the drive off when Slovis connected with Chase Roberts for a 75-yard touchdown to grab a 28-13 lead.
“I was supposed to run a go route, but I saw (Kedon) kind of scramble and get hit, so I came back to the ball,” Roberts said postgame. “I’m glad we could execute and it was a good play getting momentum and going forward.”
Cincinnati responded on their next drive, running five plays in 1:54, ending with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Metayer, to make it 28-20.
After three quarters, BYU led Cincinnati 28-20.
On the final play of the third quarter, Cincinnati’s Braden Smith fumbled a punt and gave BYU the ball on the Cincinnati 15-yard line. The Cougars took advantage of the Bearcats’ mistake, taking a 35-20 lead after Martin rushed for a one-yard touchdown.
With 2:42 remaining in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati was unable to convert on a 4th and 1, which gave BYU the ball on the Bearcats 36-yard-line.
Cincinnati added on a touchdown in the final minute, when Jones completed a pass to Smith for a 31-yard touchdown, putting them behind 35-27.
Ultimately, the Cougars defeated the Bearcats 35-27.
Slovis led the Cougars offense through the air, completing 13-24 passes and throwing for 223 yards with no interceptions. Martin led BYU on the ground, rushing for 48 yards and two touchdowns. Max Tooley led the Cougars on defense with 16 tackles.
“My mentality all the time is just try to get to the ball, stay within my assignment,” Tooley said post-game. “Honestly, when I first heard that I had 16 tackles this game, I thought they were lying just because I think I’m naturally pretty hard on myself and I always look for ways to improve.”
For the Bearcats, Jones led the team both in rushing and passing. Going 23-37 in the air, for 256 yards, three touchdowns with one interception. On the ground, Jones rushed for 94 yards on 14 attempts.
“I’m happy that we won, but we know that we can improve it,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said post-game. “I think, give credit to Cincinnati, they played a really good game, and then we did enough to win the game.”
With the win, the Cougars advanced their record to 4-1 (1-1 in conference).
BYU will have their biweek next week and they will return to action on Oct. 14 when they travel to Texas Christian University to take on the Horned Frogs. The kick-off of that game will be at noon.