Tulane snaps Cincinnati’s 32-game win streak at Nippert Stadium in season finale
It’s the first home loss for the Bearcats since 2017.
CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - Ben Bryant rolled onto the field Friday on a scooter with his right foot in a walking boot. The hometown crowd cheered as the University of Cincinnati quarterback was honored on senior day.
Bryant, sidelined with a season-ending foot injury he suffered last week at Temple, could only watch as the Bearcats’ hopes of winning a third straight American Athletic Conference championship came crashing to the turf.
Cincinnati lost to Tulane 27-24. The defeat snapped a program-record 32-game winning streak for the Bearcats at Nippert Stadium. It was their first home loss since Nov. 10, 2017 (35-24 against Temple).
Had the Bearcats won Friday, they would’ve hosted the AAC championship game on Dec. 3. Instead, they now wait to see which bowl game will put a period on their 2022-23 season.
With Bryant injured, sophomore backup quarterback Evan Prater made his first career start. After Tulane won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half, the former Wyoming High School 2019 Ohio Mr. Football award winner received a roaring ovation from the sold-out as he led the Cincinnati offense onto the field.
Prater and the Bearcats went three-and-out on their first two possessions. The game remained scoreless until Tulane booted a 34-yard field goal with 5:17 to play in the opening quarter.
Prater and the offense countered with a 13-play drive that ended with a 28-yard field goal by junior kicker Ryan Coe to start the second period. It was the 10th straight made field goal by Coe, the reigning AAC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Prater completed five of his eight passes in the first quarter for 47 yards, including a 20-yarder to freshman wide receiver Will Pauling. Prater also rushed four times for 14 yards in the opening frame.
Tulane grabbed a 10-3 lead on an 11-yard rushing touchdown by running back Tyjae Spears with 4:58 remaining before halftime. The score capped a 15-play, 71-yard drive and ate up 8:25 of game clock. It was the longest drive of the season for the Green Wave.
With Cincinnati freshman standout defensive lineman Dontay Corleone sidelined with a lower-body injury, Spears gashed the UC defense for 103 yards on 18 carries in the first half. It was the junior’s sixth straight 100-yard game and the 13th of his career. Spears finished with 181 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries.
Two minutes after Spears’ score, Cincinnati running back Charles McClelland countered with a touchdown run of his own. The senior raced 35 yards through the goal line to tie the game at 10 apiece. It was McClelland’s seventh rushing score of the season and 12th of his career.
Tulane added a 47-yard field goal just before the halftime whistle to take 13-10 advantage into the locker room.
Prater threw an interception on UC’s first drive of the second half. Prater’s pass was intended for junior wide receiver Jadon Thompson but was deflected and ultimately picked. The turnover set up the Green Wave at the Cincinnati 40-yard line.
Tulane marched its way to a fourth-and-3 at the 6. Bearcats sophomore safety Bryon Threats was flagged for pass interference in the end zone, giving the Green Wave a fresh set of downs. The penalty resulted in Spears’ second score of the day.
The 2-yard touchdown put Tulane ahead 20-10 with 6:59 to play in the third.
Senior running back Ryan Montgomery hurdled a would-be tackler on a 17-yard gash on Cincinnati’s ensuing possession. The run was the highlight of a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown by Montgomery that cut the Green Wave’s lead to 20-17 entering the fourth.
It was the longest touchdown drive of the season for the Bearcats.
The Cincinnati defense stepped up for a stop on fourth-and-2 on its own 38-yard line on the next drive. Senior linebacker Ty Van Fossen and sophomore linebacker Jaheim Thomas (Princeton High School) combined for the tackle on Tulane junior quarterback Michael Pratt and forced the turnover on downs with 11:14 left.
Prater answered by tossing a 21-yard pass down the sideline to Pauling on thrd-and-9. The pass was ruled incomplete. But UC coach Luke Fickell challenged the call, and the review revealed Pauling got his toes down in bounds before his momentum carried him out of play.
The completion set up first-and-10 at the Tulane 29. The Bearcats then took a 24-20 lead on another rushing touchdown by Montgomery with 6:27 to play. This Montgomery score was from 15 yards out and capped a 13-play, 63-yard march by Prater and the offense.
But Tulane wasn’t done. The Green Wave countered by going 75 yards in 1:17 and going back up 27-24 on a 30-yard connection between Pratt and wide receiver Duece Watts, who beat UC senior cornerback Arquon Bush on the score.
Prater and the Cincinnati offense failed to answer, failing to gain a single yard in three plays. Mason Fletcher punted the ball to Tulane with 4:04 left on the clock.
The Bearcats held defensively and were able to get their offense back on the field with 1:36 left.
Prater threw a pass to junior wide receiver Tyler Scott that bounced off his hands on fourth-and-15.
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