The University of Cincinnati football team used a second half burst from its offense to defeat the Fordham University Rams 49-17 Saturday.
26,317 fans at Nippert Stadium watched UC score a touchdown on each of its possessions in the second half, after scoring just one offensive touchdown in the entire first half.
Fordham’s offense started the game strongly and appeared to be on the way to an early lead. After an 11-play drive reached the UC 17-yard line, UC senior defensive end Dan Giordano forced Fordham quarterback Ryan Higgins to fumble and junior defensive back Deven Drane scooped up the loose ball and carried it 76 yards for the first score of the game.
The Rams continued to move the ball on the ensuing drive, advancing to the UC 28-yard line before settling for a 43-yard field goal from Patrick Murray. UC lead 7-3 with 4 minutes and 43 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
After waiting nearly the entire quarter to take the field, Munchie Legaux and the Cincinnati offense needed only three plays to score. Legaux connected with senior tight end Travis Kelce in the left flat and Kelce rumbled 77-yards to give UC a 14-3 advantage.
The reception was the longest of Kelce’s career, as well as the longest play of the season for UC so far.
The second quarter began much like the first, with Fordham advancing deep into UC territory before Higgins’ second fumble of the night derailed the drive. The senior quarterback lost nine yards on the fumble and Murray couldn’t convert the 48-yard field goal attempt that followed.
UC took over with more than nine minutes remaining in the half and drove to the Fordam 29-yard line before stalling out. Sophomore kicker Tony Milliano’s 46-yard field goal attempt struck the left upright and the score remained 14-3.
Fordham added three more points before the half on a 55-yard Murray field goal. UC headed to halftime with a 14-6 lead, after being out-possessed by nearly 15 minutes.
Despite UC’s questionable first half performance, UC head coach Butch Jones remained confident his team could turn things around in the third quarter, said Cincinnati senior receiver Danny Milligan, whose second half performance sparked UC’s turnaround.
“Coach Jones came in, very well spoken, very calm,” Milligan said. “I think he had a lot of faith in us as seniors and as the team and he kind of let the seniors take over and make our adjustments.”
Legaux — who completed only one of his last eight pass attempts in the first half — came out firing in the second half, completing five straight passes before finishing off the opening drive with an 8-yard touchdown run. UC lead 21-6 with 10 minutes and 55 seconds remaining in the third quarter, following Miliano’s successful extra point.
Following a quick three-and-out by the Fordham offense, UC increased its lead to 28-6 four minutes later. Sophomore running back Ralph David Abernathy IV avoided a tackle in the backfield and outran the rest of the defense on his way to a 36-yard touchdown run.
Another three-and-out for Fordham and a 42-yard punt return by UC senior wide receiver Danny Milligan set up the Bearcat’s third touchdown of the quarter. Junior Jordan Luallen came in to run UC’s wildcat package inside the 10-yard line and easily scored from one yard out for his first touchdown of the season.
Fordham answered with a 68-yard scoring drive of its own. Higgins connected with senior receiver Brian Wetzel over the middle on a 12-yard scoring strike with 1 minute and 28 seconds remaining in the quarter, reducing UC’s lead to 35-14.
The Bearcats answered by making it four touchdowns in four drives on the following possession. Legaux evaded the Fordham pass rush and threw an impressive 26-yard touchdown strike to Milligan.
The score was the second of Milligan’s career, and his second in as many weeks.
Fordham added another field goal on its next drive, which was played against the majority of UC’s second-string defense, to drop UC’s lead to 42-17.
UC senior quarterback Brandon Kay notched the final score of the game with 1 minute and 46 seconds remaining, edging into the end zone from one yard out for the first touchdown of his career.
After a disappointing first half, UC scored on every possession of the second half to earn the victory by a final score of 49-17.
“The thing I liked about the second half was the way that our kids came out and competed. It’s hard to score on every possession and our players did that,” Jones said. “We got off the field defensively [and] we got some valuable players [repetitions].
Kelce and Milligan finished with career highs in receiving yards with 101 and 81 yards respectively and Abernathy notched 108 all-purpose yards on only 10 touches of the ball.
Legaux — who looked like a completely different quarterback in the second half — finished the game with 262 yards to go along with a pair of touchdowns.
UC will take the field again Saturday, Oct. 20 against the University of Toledo.