Cincinnati vs UConn: A Football History

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Gino Guidugli gets six against UConn in 2001. (Jeff Swinger)

Coming off a brutal loss at the hands of the South Florida Bulls, the Bearcats travel to Hartford for a morning kickoff against the Huskies of UConn. It’s a sorry state of affairs for these two teams, as they each enter the game at 0–2 in AAC play. The loser falls to 0–3, which is going to essentially hit the death knell on either team’s season. Given that’s the case, it’s a deceptively high-stakes matchup.

I also believe that each team is better than their record indicates. 2–3 UConn is not the doormat of years past, and is finally starting to trend in the right direction under head coach Bob Diaco. The Bearcats, on the flip side, are 3–2, but boast a lot more talent than your average 3–2 team. This game could be scary, but it’s one I feel that UC can and should win. Here’s the full series breakdown and a glance at some notable past matchups.

All-time series record: Cincinnati leads, 10–2

First meeting: 2001

Last meeting: 2015

Current streak: Cincinnati has won five straight

Record in Connecticut: Cincinnati leads, 3–2

Streak in Connecticut: Cincinnati has won the last two

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Zach Norton runs back an interception for a touchdown. (Jeff Swinger)

November 3, 2001 — Cincinnati 45, UConn 28

In the first meeting between the schools, the Huskies trekked to Nippert Stadium in their second season as an FBS team. UConn was bad, entering the game with a 5–13 record as an FBS team, with one of those wins coming against an FCS team, three coming against the MAC, and other coming against Rutgers. Basically, UConn hadn’t done a thing as a big-time football program. UC fans responded as such, and just 17,588 fans came out to Nippert. The Bearcats didn’t play an FCS team that season. This was their FCS game. It was that kind of matchup.

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LaDaris Vann grabs a touchdown pass. (Jeff Swinger)

Coming off a tough loss to rival Louisville the previous week, the Bearcats — behind QB Gino Guidugli — struggled to get going against 2–6 UConn. Finally, at the end of the third quarter, Zach Norton picked off a Dan Orlovsky pass and streaked for the end zone, giving the Bearcats a 38–21 lead and sealing the win. It wasn’t pretty, as the Bearcats allowed a weak Huskies offense to rack up 382 yards. But five forced turnovers by UC was the difference, and the red and black got the victory at home over the hapless Huskies.

The Bearcats finished the 2001 season at 7–5 after losing to #25 Toledo in the Motor City Bowl. The Huskies closed the season with six straight losses to finish 2–9.

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Mardy Gilyard reels in a pass. (AP/Bob Child)

October 25, 2008 — UConn 40, Cincinnati 16

By 2008, both the Bearcats and Huskies were hitting their stride in the Big East. The Bearcats would make their first BCS bowl that season, and UConn (believe it or not) would have their second of four consecutive eight-win seasons.

The Bearcats entered the 2008 game riding high. They were 7–1 in their last eight games, with the only loss coming on the road against the #4 Oklahoma Sooners. Things were rolling under Brian Kelly until disaster struck in Hartford in front of a sellout homecoming crowd of 40,000.

QB Tony Pike had broken his forearm in September against Akron and was returning as starter for the first time. After experiencing “progressive numbness” in his left hand, his day ended at halftime. A 13–10 Bearcats lead evaporated as UConn outscored the red and black 30–3 in the second half.

Brian Kelly coached 40 games at Cincinnati, and this was the only conference loss by 20 points or more. For reference, Tommy Tuberville has done that in both conference games so far this season.

The Bearcats bounced back from the loss, beating #24 South Florida, #20 West Virginia, and #20 Pittsburgh in the next four games. They finished the season 11–3 after a loss to Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

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Isaiah Pead scores a fourth quarter touchdown to seal the victory over UConn. (GoBearcats.com)

November 7, 2009 — #4 Cincinnati 47, UConn 45

The Bearcats magical 2009 season saw them finish a perfect 12–0, but they nearly slipped up at home against a tough UConn team.

A Jacob Rogers field goal on the final play of the first half gave the Bearcats a 27–10 lead at the break, but the Huskies didn’t quit. In the third quarter, a 46-yard touchdown run and an 86-yard punt return brought the game to 37–24 entering the final frame. Another Rogers field goal put UC up by 16, but then UConn made their move.

Two more Jordan Todman touchdown runs (his third and fourth of the night) cut UC’s lead to just two points after a failed two-point conversion. With five minutes remaining, the Bearcats needed another score. QB Zach Collaros, starting again in place of the injured Tony Pike, marched the Bearcats 56 yards with the help of an Isaiah Pead touchdown scramble on fourth down. The Huskies had time to answer back, but it wasn’t enough and UC held on to improve their record to 9–0.

Not only did the win preserve UC’s Top 5 position in the AP Poll, but it also capped what’s arguably the best three-game stretch by a quarterback in program history. Collaros finished this three game stint without Pike with an absurd stat line: 66-for-82 (80%), 1,028 yards, eight touchdown passes, and zero interceptions. Without Collaros, the 12–0 season isn’t possible. He was masterful.

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Solomon Tentman holds the Big East Championship trophy following UC’s 2012 win over UConn. (

Jared Wickerham

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December 1, 2012 — Cincinnati 34, UConn 17

In what would be the final game of the Butch Jones tenure, the Bearcats travelled to Hartford to face UConn with a share of the 2012 Big East title on the line. You may remember this game being on the same day as Cashmere Wright’s incredible buzzer beater against Alabama. A handful of us hung out in the student section after the basketball game to watch the Bearcats put away UConn on the big screen. That was a good day.

The game was the Brendon Kay and Travis Kelce show, as the pair connected with each other for three scores. Kay threw two touchdown passes to Kelce and Kelce returned the favor with a touchdown strike to Kay on a trick play in the second quarter. After the opening drive of the second half, it was Kay/Kelce 21, UConn 10. The Bearcats added a George Winn rushing touchdown and a pair of field goals to put the game away and close the regular season at 9–3. The loss dropped UConn to 5–7, securing back-t0-back losing seasons in Hartford for the first time since 2005 and 2006.

The Bearcats are 5–0 against UConn since 2010, and the only memorable game in that stretch was the 2012 game that secured a share of the Big East Championship. If you’re a fan of blowouts, you’ll like the 2014 game, which UC won 41–0. However, the Huskies won just a single FBS game that year, so I have a hard to beating my chest over that victory. The 2016 edition figures to be a the most evenly-matched battle since 2010, so maybe I’ll have something notable to add to this list.