As it turns out, I was right to be worried about this game. The Cougars struggled through the first three quarters, and when Cincinnati scored a touchdown to take a 12-16 lead early in the fourth quarter, I was really concerned. But the Coogs rallied from that point forward, rattling off 28 unanswered points (including two touchdowns on back-to-back pick-sixes) to secure the road win.
The Good: Greg Ward, Jr completed 24 of 36 passes for 326 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns; the UH ground attack netted a total of 180 rushing yards. The Cougar defense, meanwhile, held Cincinnati to only 30 total rushing yards, and contributed 16 points to the final score in the form of two pick-sixes and a safety.
The Bad: The Cougars looked sloppy on offense through much of the game. Greg Ward, Jr threw two interceptions, including the one that led to Cincinnati's go-ahead touchdown. Bearcat quarterback Hayden Moore attacked the UH secondary to the tune of 275 passing yards and two touchdowns. UH cornerback Harold Wilson dropped a sure pick-six in the first half that would have turned the tide of the game much earlier had he held on (he made up for it with a pick-six in the fourth).
The Bizarre: This fumble recovery by Cincinnati, late in the first half, led to a Bearcat field goal right before halftime (via SBNation):
What it means: This was probably the Cougars' biggest road test, and they passed. This is not to say that trips to Navy, Memphis or even SMU will be easy; every opponent is going to give the Coogs their best shot from here on out. However, this game was especially tough because the Cougars were playing a road game (in a stadium they haven't won at since 1971), on a short week of rest, against a pretty good Cincinnati team that they only beat by three points at home last year. And they didn't just escape Nippert Stadium with a win; they imposed their will on the Bearcats in the fourth quarter and made a statement.
Next up for the Cougars is a September 24 trip to San Marcos to face the Texas State Bobcats.