The pace was frenetic, the balls flung left and right, the Nippert Stadium record crowd of 40,101 stood on its feet — and eventually stormed midfield.
A week after setting a school record by passing for 557 yards in a bit more than three quarters, Bearcats redshirt freshman quarterback Hayden Moore delivered again Thursday.
And this time he won.
Cincinnati and Moore ensured there will be no showdown between two undefeated teams — formerly Miami and presently Florida State — Oct. 10 in Tallahassee, as the Bearcats defeated the Canes 34-23.
Those “Fire Al Golden” banners aren’t about to stop flying.
“Obviously our guys invested a lot,’’ Golden said. “They are incredibly disappointed. There is a lot of good leadership there in terms of not splintering.
“But we have a lot of football left, we haven’t played a Coastal game yet, we haven’t played an ACC game yet. So from our guys’ standpoint, we have a lot to move forward to. Again, it crushes, it hurts. Obviously, we are disappointed. But you have to keep going and keep digging and keep improving.”
It was Miami’s seventh double-digit loss in its last 18 games, and first time the Canes lost to Cincinnati since the two teams first met in 1947.
The backbreaker: a 52-yard completion from Moore to Mekele McKay, which led to a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Cogswell three plays later with 6:54 left in the game. The five-play, 81-yard drive sealed the victory for Cincinnati (3-2), which lost a heartbreaker last week to Memphis despite gaining more than 750 yards of offense.
On Thursday, Moore’s first collegiate start, he completed 22 of 33 passes for 279 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception picked off by Rayshawn Jenkins.
UM quarterback Brad Kaaya completed 24 of 39 passes for 255 yards, with Joe Yearby adding 113 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
As hard as the Hurricanes (3-1) tried to keep up, they couldn’t convert third downs on offense, made costly penalties and couldn’t make enough plays on defense when they desperately needed them.
The Canes had Corn Elder’s punt return for a touchdown called back early in the third quarter on a holding penalty by freshman safety Jaquan Johnson, one of the players who had to help compensate for the first-half absences of safeties Deon Bush and Jamal Carter because of targeting last game.
Kaaya completed a 45-yard pass to Herb Waters down the right sideline to put UM at the Cincinnati 8 with less than six minutes left. But UM came away empty when with 4:47 left, Kaaya threw a fourth-down pass intended for tight end Stan Dobard that Bearcat safety Tyrell Gilbert knocked away to secure the eventual victory.
“We’ve just got to stop making the mistakes and be more disciplined on third down,’’ Kaaya said. “We work on it every day in practice. Just execute, that’s honestly all it is. Execute. We have a good third-down package dialed up. We’ve just got to make plays when they come to us.”
Kaaya said the players were down, but not out, in the locker room after the game.
“Of course we’re upset,’’ Kaaya said. “We hate losing. Everyone owned up to it. There wasn’t really much pouting. Guys kept their heads high. We all know what we have to work on to get better. This team will bounce back. That’s the thing.
“Honestly, we came to this night ready and prepared. We just killed ourselves with a lot of the things we did. We addressed that in the locker room and said, ‘Hey, everyone has to own up to it.’ There wasn’t any jawing at each other. We all realize what we have to do as a team.’’
Cincinnati’s defense, which missed tackle after tackle the previous week, flustered Kaaya and seemed more stout Thursday — not to mention the Canes’ paltry third-down conversion rate. The Canes converted four of 15 third downs Thursday, continuing their pitiful run. This season they are 13 for 53 on third-down attempts.
The game had inconsistencies on both sides of the ball for the Hurricanes, who were down 27-20 at halftime.
The Bearcats turned their first two drives into touchdowns that left the crowd in a frenzy and UM fans likely dumbfounded in front of their TVs.
After Cincinnati won the opening toss and elected to kick, UM marched down the field, eventually thwarted by a clipping call and subsequent loss of one yard on a third-down completion. Two plays later, Michael Badgley kicked a 41-yard field goal to give Miami the 3-0 lead.
Badgley kicked three field goals for the night, with tailbacks Yearby and Mark Walton scoring the two touchdowns.
Then came the Bearcats’ magic — 14 points in 1 minute 21 seconds — mixed with plenty of UM blunders.
Cincinnati’s first touchdown: a 29-yard rush by 5-9, 202-pound Miami Southridge graduate Hosey Williams. The play was almost farcical, as Williams entered a cluster of UM players, was grabbed by safety Rayshawn Jenkins, then inexplicably busted through the traffic and sprinted straight into the end zone.
“You know I had him,’’ Jenkins said. “He fell in the pile. I was waiting for a whistle and he popped back up off the pile and starting running again. That’s clearly my fault because I have to make sure he’s down on the ground all the way. At the end of the day we can’t have those mistakes.”
Its second touchdown, with 9:11 left in the first quarter, was preceded by Justin Vogel’s 59-yard punt that was returned 63 yards by Shaq Washington. Moore then extended the play with his feet, and hit McKay (covered by Corn Elder and Dallas Crawford) in the end zone for the 11-yard touchdown.
Cincinnati had won 27 consecutive home nonconference games at Nippert Stadium dating to a 30-24 win over Temple in three overtimes on Sept. 20, 2003. Miami made it 28.
Said UM linebacker Raphael Kirby: “We’re moving on. We’re going to learn from this game first, tomorrow, and then move on to Florida State.”