After months of hard work and dedication, the Bearcats have reached a level some never thought possible - -a Big East Championship and a trip to BCS Bowl game.
With their 30-10 defeat of the Syracuse Orangemen on Saturday afternoon in front of the 6th largest crowd in Nippert Stadium history, the Bearcats clinched an outright Big East championship and a guaranteed trip to one of the January first BCS games.
Many fans feared the Bearcats could face a letdown having already clinched a BCS berth, but Coach Brian Kelly said they knew going into the day that they had not yet reached where they wanted to be.
"I was excited about a Big East championship, but I don't want to share with anybody," said Kelly. "That's why it was so important to win today."
The Bearcats played great defense for the most of the day, and were able to assemble enough offensive firepower to down the Orangemen in convincing fashion and clinch their first Big East championship in school history.
On offense, the Bearcats used a nice mix of run and pass to keep Syracuse on its heels. They were able to gain 171 yards on the ground using a 3 man rotation on John Goebel, Jacob Ramsey, and freshman Isaiah Pead.
Coach Kelly says he was confident in his backs to get the job done for him, just as they have for most of the season.
"We feel like we have 1a and 1b at the back position with John Goebel and Jacob Ramsey," said Kelly. They've been a great 1-2 punch all year for us. We thought we would see more pressure today, so we thought that was a pretty good game plan."
Tony Pike, while admittedly not quite as sharp as he was against Pittsburgh, was able to get the job done when the Bearcats needed it most. He finished with 272 yards and 2 touchdowns, while throwing just one interception.
Coach Kelly spoke to the progress that his junior quarterback has made throughout his career, specifically his performance today.
"Today was another process in the learning curve for him," said Kelly. "I thought he did a lot of good things out there today and I think he learned a lot about what he has to do to manage a spread offense."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bearcats were exceptional for most of the afternoon. The Orangemen were able to find a few holes in the run defense, but the pass defense was able to completely shut down any sort of attack Syracuse threw in their direction.
Syracuse quarterback Cam Dantley was just 6-of-23 for 59 yards, but the real story was that he completed just 1 pass for 5 yards over the first 3 quarters.
Coach Kelly was proud of his defense and the pressure they were able to put on the offense for the majority of the day.
"Any time you get pressure in your four down and drop seven, your obviously letting the quarterback know that he has to be very, very precise," said Kelly. "We did a very good job of taking away the play action pass."
With the win, the Bearcats have now reached the 10 win mark for the second consecutive season. With a win next weekend versus Hawai'i, they would reach a level never before seen by the University of Cincinnati - - 11 wins.
Stayed tuned to BearcatLair.Com for more coverage of the first Big East football championship in school history.