If you’re just jumping onto the football Bearcats bandwagon you might not yet be acquainted with heartbreak. The average Cincinnati fan has made friends with this feeling. Some fans have even come to like the feeling of defeat and heartbreak. Maybe this list is for them, the insufferable fans who only focus on the negative and maybe even love to lose. Is this a complete list? No, absolutely not but these are the 7 games that stick out to me for one reason or another and are the epitome of heartbreaking and agony.
8. #25 Houston 2015
As far as the Tuberville years go 2015 wasn’t awful, it was just bad. A November date with a top 25 team could have helped the team finish the season strong. QB Gunner Kiel threw for 523 yards and 4 touchdowns to lead the way for the Bearcats. WR Chris Moore had 6 receptions for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns. Total the Bearcats put up almost 600 yards of total offense yet going into the 4th quarter the Cougars were up 30-22. With about 2 minutes left Kiel hit Moore for a 29 yard touchdown pass. QB Hayden Moore then found Chris Moore for successful 2-point conversion making it 33-30. The Bearcats would get the ball back and have a chance to march 85 yards to win the game. At mid-field the drive stalled with three consecutive incomplete passes. It came down to 4th and 10 but an overthrown ball ended it, game over. The Bearcats went on to get blown out by USF (65-27) and San Diego State (42-7) in the Hawaii Bowl later that season.
7. #8 Oklahoma 2010
The Bearcats left too many opportunities on the field in this one. Brian Kelley was gone, Tony Pike was gone, Mardy Gilyard was gone but the expectations were not. The Bearcats recent hire of Butch Jones was off to a rocky 1-2 start with #8 Oklahoma coming to Paul Brown Stadium. The offense was in capable hands with QB1 Zach Collaros at the helm. He ended the day 23-28, 305 yards passing, and 3 touchdowns. RB Iseah Pead lead the way with 169 yards rushing! The Sooners, led by Landry Jones moved up and down the field almost at will. The defense couldn’t even get set sometimes the Sooners moved so fast. At the end of the first Oklahoma led 14-3 and had a blowout brewing. The Bearcats scored in the second to make it 14-9 and then held on defense. The next possesion Collaros hit WR DJ Woods on a post route down the middle of the field looking to score and take the lead but had the ball stripped from him on the 8-yard line and Oklahoma recovered. A huge blow to the Bearcats. 17-9 at the half. The Sooners would come out in the third and score, 24-9. A field goal and a touchdown later the Bearcats were closing in, 24-22 with 7 minutes left. A huge setback came with DJ Woods was set to catch a punt on the 5 yard and whiffed it. The Sooners recovered then scored the next play, 31-22. With 58 seconds left Collaros hit Adrien Robinson for an 18-yard touchdown pass to make it 31-29. The Bearcats hopes of an upset would come down to an onside kick, which the Sooners recovered. Game over, 31-29.
6. #17 Memphis 2019 AAC Championship
The last week of the 2019 regular season the #18 Bearcats traveled to #16 Memphis to finish off the season. After getting taken to the woodshed at Ohio State in week 2, the Bearcats were on a 9 game winning streak. The Bearcats would lose that game to Memphis, heartbreaking in its own right, 34-24. The relief though was the Bearcats would make the same trip to Memphis the next week to play in the AAC Championship, their first. Playing the same football team twice in one season rarely happens nowadays, let alone in back to back weeks. Bearcats fans were eager for the rematch though as it’s hard to beat a good team twice. The championship game started off with Memphis attempting an onside kick, which really set the tone for the game but he Bearcats recovered. Michael Warren would punch in the touchdown later in the drive to go up 7-0. Memphis would lead 10-7 after the first. The Bearcats would take a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter on a 14-yard run by Ridder. Memphis scored on the opening drive of the third, making it 17-14. Moments later Warren would add in his second rushing touchdown of the day making it 21-17, Bearcats. A 52 yard and 50 yard field goal later the Tigers are up 23-21. With just 4 minutes left the Bearcats took the lead 24-23, setting up a dramatic ending. Three minutes later Memphis scored and then couldn’t convert the 2 point conversion, 29-24. On what could have been the game winning drive Ridder first hit WR Alec Pierce for a huge 30 yard gain. Under pressure Ridder hit WR Rashad Medaris for a 20 yard gain with 46 seconds left. The Bearcats soon found themselves with 4th and 15 with 31 seconds left though and on the do or die play Ridder’s pass to TE Josiah Deguara fell incomplete. Game over 29-24.
5. #6 Ohio State 2002
The Buckeyes actually played a game in Cincinnati. Sure it wasn’t Nippert but Paul Brown Stadium is probably as close as they’ll ever get. More than 66,319 fans packed Paul Brown Stadium to see the #6 Buckeyes play in Cincinnati for the first time in 91 years. QB1 for the Bearcats Gino Guidugli racked up 324 passing yards. UC led 9-0 after the first quarter and 12-7 at halftime. The Bearcats forged ahead again, 19-14 on a Guidugli 5-yard touchdown pass to Tye Keith before Krenzel gave the Buckeyes a go-ahead score late in the 4th. With about a minute to go the Bearcats found themselves with the ball on first down from the Buckeye’s 15-yard line. Guidugli let one rip into the endzone where he found WR Johnny Olinger WIDE OPEN. This was going to be the victory Bearcats fans had longed for… but Olinger dropped it! Two plays later, true freshman George Murray attempted a diving catch in the end zone. The ball slipped through his hands. The Bearcats had one last attempt on 4th down to convert or score but Guidugli’s final pass was intercepted by safety Will Allen, and the Buckeyes ran out the last 26 seconds. The Buckeyes won 23-19.
4. The 2010 Sugar Bowl
After going undefeated (12-0) in the regular season the #3 Bearcats were less than 2 seconds from going to a National Championship. That alone could have made this list in it’s own right. After the miraculous comeback against Pitt that will forever be entrenched into Bearcats lore, the high of the “Pike to Binns” touchdown carried the Bearcats to New Orleans to face Tim Tebow and the #6 Florida Gators. In my estimation there were only about two or three teams that I wouldn’t have wanted to play in a bowl game that year. Florida was one of them. HC Brian Kelley had skipped town for Notre Dame leaving interim coach Jeff Quinn to lead the Bearcats. The awe of the Bearcats second ever BCS Bowl game quickly turned to gut-wrenching when the Gators jumped out to a 9-0 first quarter lead and never looked back as they crushed the Bearcats 51-24.
3. #19 Louisville 2013
Historic Nippert Stadium was home of the last ever clash for the Keg of Nails. Louisville was jetting out of the American for the ACC. Obviously, both teams wanted to be the one that kept the Keg but the Cardinals were a top 20 team led by Teddy Bridgewater. The Bearcats had not cracked the top 25 all year despite being 9-2 going into the game. The game was back and forth the whole time and with 11 seconds left in regulation K Tony Miliano lined up from 26 yards out and NAILED IT to force OT. The Cardinals struck first in OT with a touchdown leaving all the pressure on the QB1 Brendon Kay and the Bearcats offense. The offense attempted a trick play on first down that lost 4 yards, the next two downs were incomplete passes. It came down to 4th and 14. Kay was flushed from the pocket, threw down field for the first down but threw it too high. Bearcats lose 31-24 in OT and Louisville kept the Keg.
2. The 2009 Orange Bowl
The Bearcats were on fire in 2008. They finished the regular season 11-2 with wins over #23 USF, #25 West Virginia, and #20 Pitt. The only blemishes they had was a 52-26 loss to #4 Oklahoma and a weird 40-16 loss at UConn. The season was good enough to crown the Bearcats the Big East champions for the first time and an invitation to their first ever BCS Bowl game in Miami, FL. The #12 Bearcats would face off against #19 Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl for the chance at a top 10 finish. After a 24 hour bus ride I found myself in downtown Miami with hundreds of other Bearcats fans that made the trip. Bearcats Nation was ready! Unfortunately, the football team wasn’t. On the opening drive the Bearcats marched down the field easily. QB Tony Pike capped off the drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Mardy Gilyard and the Bearcats took a 7-0 lead. It was all Hoakies after that. Pike would go 16-33 with 239 yards passing, 1 touchdown and 4 INTS. The Bearcats were blanked the next 3 quarters and lost 20-7. Saying the bus ride back to Cincinnati was miserable is an understatement.
1.The 2021 Peach Bowl
There should be no surprise that this game is #1 on this list. This is the football equivalent to the Nevada game in the round of 32, some have even said it is worse. I’ll let you decide that. The 2020 season is the one that almost wasn’t. The Pandemic threatened to cancel it and long breaks mid season made it feel longer than normal. The Bearcats came into the season ranked 20th and after the first four games found themselves ranked #8 and being talked about for the CFP. The Bearcats cruised through the American before being tested at UCF and then finally against Tulsa in the AAC Championship game. The Bearcats were 9-0, American Champions, and #8. They found themselves in the NY6 Peach Bowl against #9 Georgia. The Bearcats were ready even though most of the talking heads didn’t give them a snowball’s chance in hell. The loss of T James Hudson to a targeting call late in the first half was damning but the Bearcats found themselves up 21-10 in the fourth quarter. They had led pretty much the entire game. Ridder went 24-37 206 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jerome Ford rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown. Josh Whyle and Alec Pearce each had a touchdown catch. As time was winding down the Bulldogs and Bearcats were tied but the Bulldogs had the ball. Georgia Kicker Jack Podlesny marched onto the field to kick a Peach Bowl record field goal attempt of 53 yards. With 3 seconds left he nailed it, winning the game for the Bulldogs, 24-21.