As we close out the decade I thought we should take a look back and revisit some of the biggest wins for the UC Bearcats. You’ll find not just football and men’s basketball in this list because over the past past decade major strides were taken in several sports programs at UC.
Were there more than 10 awesome meaningful wins? Yes, absolutely. Narrowing it down was hard, ranking them was even harder.
Belk Bowl win over Duke 2012
After Butch Jones and his coordinators left for Tennessee interim coach Steve Stripling had his hands full with a solid Duke team. The Bearcats would start the game in a 16-0 hole. QB1 Brendon Kay would set a Belk Bowl record with four touchdown passes to four different receivers. The dagger came after a Duke fumble in the red zone, Kay threw an 83-yard touchdown pass to TE Travis Kelce. Bearcats win 48-34.
Why honorable mention? The Dukies aren’t exactly a football powerhouse but it was worth throwing on here because of Kay and Kelce’s performances.
The Bearcats snap #19 Iowa State’s 37-game home winning streak
December 1, 2016. The Bearcats traveled to Ames, IA to take on #19 Iowa State. The Cyclones had a 37-game home winning streak to non conferences opponents going strong. Gary Clark and the Bearcats showed up and beat the Cyclones in OT 55-54. Kyle Washington had 13 points and 10 rebounds Jacob Evans III, Gary Clark and Kevin Johnson each cored 11 points each for the Bearcats. Big Game Jake hit two free throws with 20 seconds left to seal the deal.
Why honorable mention? Although the Cyclones play in the B12 I wouldn’t consider them a blueblood program. Breaking a 37-game home winning streak of any kind is impressive though.
The Top 10
10. A Munchie Miracle
2012. FedEx Field, Landover, MD. The Virginia Tech Hokies gave up 495 yards to the Bearcats, capped off by a 39-yard touchdown pass from QB Munchie Legaux to WR Damon Julian in the final seconds of the game. The touchdown sealed a 27-24 win for Cincy.
I put this game on the list because it was an epic win for the football Bearcats at the last seconds verses a team from a power five conference. VT wasn’t ranked though so it lands at #10.
9. Volleyball over #6 Pitt to advance to the Sweet 16
A win that is considered the biggest in program history has to make the list, right? That’s exactly why this victory made the list. The most recent sporting event on the list has UC Volleyball legend Jordan Thompson leading the Bearcats over the 6th ranked Pitt Panthers and onto the Sweet 16. This match could be replaced on the list on Saturday when the Bearcats look to survive and advance by beating 11th seeded Penn State. You can watch the match online on ESPN3 at 10pm!
8. The Bearcats spoil Chip Kelly’s UCLA Debut
Fickell year 2 started off with a big win over the Bruins at the Rose Bowl. Michael “The Truck” Warren rushed for 141 yards on the day and linebacker Bryant Wright forced a fumble that led to a tie-breaking safety. The Bearcats would go on to smash expectations finishing 11-2. If the media could have ranked Kelly’s Bruins in the top 10 before the season started they would have. The Bearcats didn’t care about the media darling and weren’t given a chance. That’s what made the win so sweet. Add in UCLA being a P5 team and you have a meaningful win to jump start a season.
7. Bearcats Advance, outlast Purdue in OT
As the 8 seeded Bearcats were taking on the 9th seeded Purdue Boilermakers I was sitting in a packed Habits Cafe in Oakley watching as the final seconds ticked away in a certain loss for the Bearcats. With 7 seconds left the Bearcats general Troy Caupain took the ball coast to coast to hit a layup as time expired to extend the game. Bearcats guard Farrad Cobb led Cincinnati with 14 points, big man Coreontae DeBerry had 13 points, while Caupain tallied 10, none more important than the one at the end of regulation.
When you win a game in the NCAA tournament in the fashion that the Bearcats did is the reason it’s called Madness. Most of the “smart money” was on the offensive minded Boilermakers in this one making it Top 10 worthy.
6. Gantz’s lifts the Bearcats over the Pirates with 47-yard field goal
It was an absolutely frigid November night in Cincinnati. The Bearcats were playing at PBS and the ECU pirates were in town. It seemed that I was one of only a handful of people left by the end of the game due to the temperature. QB Gunner Kiel threw for 436 yards and WR Mekale McKay caught two TDs to go with his 172 yards recieving in a back and forth battle. In the end though K Andrew Gantz booted a career long 47-yard field goal with 15 seconds left, providing the go-ahead score that made it 48-46 for UC. The Bearcats would score again off of a turnover to make the final 54-46.
Finding top 10 worthy wins during the Tommy T era is difficult but in context this was a big win for the Bearcats. It was win number 6 of the season making them bowl eligible and moved them into a tie for first place at the time. Plus, Dan Hoard’s radio call on this is phenomenal.
5. Bearcats Baseball Damn the Beavers.
OF AJ Bumpass and the Bearcats brought out the bats in their first NCAA baseball tournament game in 48 years. The Bearcats were heavy underdogs to Oregon State, playing in Oregon with the odds against them. Bumpass went 5 for 5, including a go-ahead triple in the ninth inning. The Bearcats would defeat the defending national champions 7-6. The Bearcats would finish the game with 15 hits and a date with Michigan in the next round. Coach Scott Googins proved to be another home run hire for AD Mike Bohn.
The Bearcats beating the defending national champions, in the NCAA baseball tournament after a 48 year drought with your stud player firing on cylinders makes this win a top 10 win.
4. Bearcats feast in the KFC Yum! Center, defeats #12 Louisville 2014
Scene, KFC Yum! Center Louisville. Fresh off of a National Championship the #12 Louisville Cardinals hosted the #13 Cincinnati Bearcats. You know the rivalry, you know the history, you know Cronin and Pitino. Mix in Sean Kilpatrick vs Russ Smith and you have fireworks. This game was like a heavyweight bout. The Bearcats came out and punched the Cardinals in the mouth jumping out to an early lead, then Louisville would hit back big, and back and forth they went almost the entire game. In the end the Bearcats were the last ones standing. Kilpatrick scored 28 points including going 11-11 from the foul line. Mean Face Justin Jackson chipped in with 11 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals and Shaq Thomas put up 11.
A top 5 win? Oh yeah. That game was fun, epic, over a top 15 team on the road, and gave the Bearcats first place at the time.
3. Nip at Night ’19
Where were you when Ahmad Gardner picked off Dillon Gabriel and ran it back for six and Nippert went berserk? The Bearcats win over #18 UCF was an epic showcase of what Nip at Night can be. The place was packed, loud, and a black hole for the Knights. It officially signaled the changing of the guard in the AAC East. The Bearcats defense came ready to play and held the Knights to just 8 second half points. Mike Warren II rushed for 133 yards and the Bearcats emerged victorious, 27-24. The UC Bearcats entered 0-4 against ranked teams since Coach Fickell took over in 2017. UCF found out the hard way that Nippert is a resting ground for visiting teams.
2. Cincinnati stuns #2 Syracuse in the BE Tournament – 2012.
Say what you want about the Bearcats’ uniforms but the players were on fire for this one. Coming off of a double OT win over #13 Georgetown in the first round the 23-9 Bearcats stared down the #2 team in the nation in the second round of the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden. Fallout from the Crosstown Punchout still loomed over the team and the Syracuse Orange seemed a daunting task.
The Bearcats would hit 10 3-pointers in an epic victory over Jim Boeheim’s teams sending the Orange home early from MSG. The team would lose a rock fight with Louisville the next night but make Mick Cronin’s longest run in the NCAA Tournament, making it to the Sweet 16.
A win over a the #2 team in the country in one of the most famous venues in the world playing for a Tournament spot easily makes this one a great Bearcats victory.
1. 2018 AAC Tournament Championship over #21 Houston
The Bearcats sports moment that took the #1 spot had to be a championship game W. Let’s take a deeper look into what Houston and Cincinnati had going that season.
First, the #8 Bearcats hosted the Cougars in late January riding a 12-game winning streak and a 38-game home winning streak. The Bearcats were 19-2 and the visiting Cougars were 16-4. Houston came ready to play and the Bearcats had to claw their way back to an epic victory to win the game riding standout Jacob Evans III’s 18 points.
Next, in mid-February the #5 Bearcats (23-2, 12-0) would travel to Houston (19-5, 9-3) the game was almost a mirror image of the first one with the Bearcats jumping out to a big lead early on. It would be Devin Davis and Corey Davis Jr. leading the epic comeback victory for the Cougars though, handing the Bearcats their first and only conference loss that season.
With each team at one win apiece against each other a grudge match would be the only way to settle who had supremacy. This time they’d meet in Orlando for the American Athletic Conference Tournament Championship. This one wasn’t going to be easy. For the Cougars Rob Gray led the way with 17 points followed by sharpshooter Corey Davis Jr. who finished with 16. The Bearcats would prove to be too much though. Anchored by tournament MVP Gary Clark’s 20 points and 12 rebounds, Jacob Evans III’s 12 points and 10 points and some brilliant late shooting from Kyle Washington the Bearcats would pull ahead in the final 4 seconds as Clark went 1 for 2 at the line giving the Bearcats a 56-55 lead. Houston’s floor general Rob Gray would epically turn the ball over while trying to advance i. The Bearcats would win the Tournament Championship, adding to their already impressive resume that season on their way to a 2-seed in the big dance.