Marshall at Cincinnati Recap
CINCINNATI(AP) Mike Mickens' interception and fumble recovery set up Cincinnati's first two touchdowns, and the unbeaten Bearcats defeated winless Marshall 40-14 Saturday night.
The Bearcats are 4-0 for the first time since 1954, revived by a defense ranked among the nation's best. It had two more tone-setting plays on Saturday.
During their attention-grabbing start, the Bearcats have 12 interceptions - four by Mickens - and seven fumble recoveries, setting up 79 points. The Bearcats have allowed only three touchdowns while outscoring opponents 180-30.
The Thundering Herd (0-4) couldn't put together a drive until late in the first half, when Cincinnati led 26-2 in front of a record crowd at Nippert Stadium.
Marshall is off to its worst start since 1969, when it lost its first six games. The Herd was coming off a 48-35 loss to New Hampshire, its first defeat to a lower-division team since it joined I-A in 1997.
Cincinnati's fast start under new coach Brian Kelly has renewed interest in a program largely ignored for decades. The capacity crowd of 35,097 was the largest at Nippert Stadium, which was expanded in 1992.
Fans saw a sloppy game that never got into a rhythm. Cincinnati put it away with Dustin Grutza's 7-yard touchdown pass and Jacob Ramsey's 42-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter.
The Bearcats provided some intrigue at the outset. For the second game in a row, Grutza learned shortly before the kickoff that he would start in place of quarterback Ben Mauk, bothered by a tired arm.
Mauk, who broke his passing arm and dislocated his shoulder last season at Wake Forest, started warming up after Grutza threw the ball at a lineman's feet while under pressure in the end zone, a grounding call that resulted in a safety and a 2-0 lead for Marshall.
Mauk got into the game midway through the second quarter, with Cincinnati leading 19-2 behind Mickens' two takeaways. Mauk shook his passing arm after throwing a crisp 13-yard completion on his first attempt, then put the Bearcats up 26-2 with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Barnett.
Mauk was 6-of-7 for 77 yards before he was replaced in the fourth quarter by Grutza, who led a clinching, 72-yard touchdown drive. Grutza went 5-of-7 for 63 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown pass to Connor Barwin that made it 33-14.
Grutza, who was the Bearcats' starter for most of last season, was 14-of-20 for 142 yards overall with two touchdowns.