PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jacob Dingel and Bryon Threats intercepted passes, Noah Potter and Dontay Corleone recovered fumbles and No. 22 Cincinnati beat Temple 23-3 on Saturday to move closer to the American Athletic Conference championship game.
Cincinnati (9-2, 6-1) can guarantee a berth in its fourth straight conference title game and earn home-field advantage in the Dec. 3 contest with a win in its regular-season finale Friday against Tulane, with whom it is presently tied atop the standings.
The Bearcats could also gain entry into the title game depending on how Central Florida — which was upset by Navy on Saturday — fares against South Florida. This is the final year in the AAC for Cincinnati, with the Bearcats moving to the Big 12.
“The game is all about November,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. “We've been talking about getting to November and playing well. It's always tough when you go on the road, but these guys came out tongiht and didn't worry about what happened earlier (with the UCF loss) or what the opportunities were for next week. They were up for the challenge.”
A week after quarterback E.J. Warner — the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner — set a school record for passing yards with 486 yards and had three TD passes for Temple (3-8, 1-6) in a 43-36 loss at Houston, Cincinnati got the four turnovers and held the rushing attack to 35 yards.
“We were able to put more linebackers on the field and putting in a package that Coach (Fickell) had put in through the week helped us out a lot,” sophomore linebacker Jaheim Thomas said.
The Bearcats turned those four turnovers into 10 points. “We were able to tip balls and it was big for us tonight,” Fickell said.
The turnovers were enough to give the offense enough of a lift to overcome a first-half foot injury to starting quarterback Ben Bryant, who was 9 for 18 for 130 yards. Fickell had no update on Bryant's status after the game.
“At first, they had said that they would tape him up and he would go back in,” Fickell said. “Then, they said they would hold on and take a look at him at halftime. And at halftime, we felt this was a opportunity to get a good look at what was wrong with him.”
Bryant was replaced by sophomore quarterback Evan Prater, who could not get Cincinnati into the end zone but didn't commit a turnover.
“Getting warmed up and getting a feel for the game, I started to feel real good out there,” said Prader, who finished 12 for 17 with 127 yards.
Before he departed, Bryant connected on a 42-yard touchdown pass to Tre Tucker. Ryan Montgomery had a 14-yard touchdown run to begin the second quarter after a fumble by Temple running back Edward Saydee. Montgomery rushed 14 times for 61 yards.
Warner was 21 for 36 for 167 yards with two interceptions.
“We just struggled to find some sort of rhythm,” Warner said. “When we would drive down, we would make a mistake. Three and out, whatever it was. We just struggled on offense, for sure.”
Cincinnati: The Bearcats not only remained alive for the American championship game, they kept their hopes of another spot in a New Year's Six bowl game alive as the highest-ranked non-power 5 team. Cincinnati will likely move up in the polls thanks to the UCF loss.
Temple: After flying high offensively under the freshman quarterback in Warner, the Owls struggled with Cincinnati's varied looks. It also suffered from not generating a running game, which has been one of its biggest issues this season.
Cincinnati: Hosts Tulane on Friday.
Temple: Hosts East Carolina on Saturday.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25