This one won’t help with style points for Cincinnati.
The No. 6 Bearcats stayed undefeated, but it took an unbelievable finish to seal the win against a 3-5 Tulsa team. The Golden Hurricane turned the ball over on downs at the Cincinnati 2-yard line with 1:14 left and trailing by eight points, but on the next play, Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder fumbled to give Tulsa the ball back at the 3-yard line.
But four rush attempts up the middle all went for naught, including a rush by Tulsa quarterback Davis Brinn, who looked to have the touchdown, but slid early to be spotted a yard short. The next play, Steven Anderson rushed up the middle and dove over the pile, but fumbled on his way up and the Bearcats recovered in the end zone. Cincinnati won 28-20 to move to 8-0.
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When the game began, it seemed Cincinnati might flex its muscles on Tulsa. The Bearcats scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and kept Tulsa off the scoreboard to take an early 14-0 lead. Tulsa responded in the second by scoring 12 unanswered. Cincinnati scored 14 unanswered in the third, but a fourth-quarter touchdown and two-point conversion with 8:10 left in the game by Tulsa made it a 28-20 game.
Cincinnati lasted just six plays the following drive and punted the ball back to the Golden Hurricanes, giving Tulsa the ball back at its own 23-yard line with 5:28 left.
Tulsa had little issue marching down the field, as it took just seven plays to get within the red zone. The Golden Hurricanes reached a 4th-and-5 at the Cincinnati 6-yard line, but a 5-yard pass came up just short as Cincinnati reclaimed possession at its own 2 with 1:14 remaining.
But it didn’t take long for Tulsa to get the ball right back, as a botched QB sneak led to a fumble recovered by Tulsa.
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Fortunately for coach Luke Fickell, his defense — and a poor decision — helped his team survive the late turnover. Running back Shamari Brooks rushed ahead for two to spot the ball at the 1-yard line with 58 seconds left. Following a Cincinnati timeout, he rushed for no gain. Then Brin kept the ball himself, but slid to avoid the incoming tacklers. He appeared to cross the goal-line, but only after the slide, which spotted the ball where he began to go down, bringing up fourth down.
The next play, Anderson tried to leap over the pile, but fumbled, and Cincinnati recovered to hold on for the win.
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This isn’t the first time Tulsa has played a highly ranked team close. In Week 2, the Golden Hurricanes went to the fourth quarter leading Oklahoma State, which is now ranked No. 11, before the Cowboys scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to win 28-23. The next week, they traveled to Columbus and went into the locker rooms at halftime trailing just 13-6 to now-No. 5 Ohio State. However, Ohio State scored 14 points in both the third and fourth quarters to go on to win 41-20.
Cincinnati has had the added pressure of trying to not only win, but do it with style. Despite a win over No. 10 Notre Dame and an undefeated record, the Bearcats’ American Athletic Conference schedule has done them no favors as the College Football Playoff committee put them behind five teams, three of which already had a loss.
The Bearcats might have received a bit of a boost this week. No. 3 Michigan State, one of the only two undefeated teams ahead of Cincinnati, lost 40-29 to unranked Purdue on Saturday, all but certainly dropping the Spartans below the Bearcats in the next rankings.