CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP)—Drawing on last season’s experience, Tony Pike steadied Cincinnati against Oregon State.
The senior quarterback completed 31 of 49 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns in the No. 17 Bearcats’ 28-18 victory over the Beavers on Saturday.
Pike hit Mardy Gilyard with an 18-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter to stop a second-half Oregon State comeback bid.
“He was under a lot of pressure early but he kept at it and we got it going,” Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said. “He learned a lot today and coming into Corvallis and getting the win is good for him.”
Last season Pike wasn’t even on the depth chart in fall camp but climbed his way into a starting role for the Bearcats, who won 11 games and the Big East title and played in the Orange Bowl.
“Our team has a lot of confidence,” Pike said. “We have great running backs and wide receivers and we’re real deep. Our O-line has done a great job and we have all the confidence we’re going to make plays.”
The Bearcats (3-0) snapped Oregon State’s streak of 26 straight nonconference victories at Reser Stadium, dating back to a 67-28 win over Northern Illinois on Nov. 16, 1996.
Sean Canfield completed 29 of 45 passes for 240 yards and an interception for the Beavers (2-1). Jacquizz Rodgers’ 9-yard scoring run to open the second half was Oregon State’s lone touchdown.
Cincinnati built up a 21-8 halftime lead but didn’t score again until Gilyard’s TD catch. He finished with nine catches for 65 yards.
“Pike did a good job of dropping it in,” Gilyard said about the scoring catch. “I chased it down, caught it and I was so relieved.”
Last week Gilyard scored four touchdowns in a 70-3 victory over Southeast Missouri State, becoming the first Bowl Subdivision player to score on a punt return, a run and a catch in the same game since UCLA’s Maurice Drew (now Jones-Drew) did it in 2005.
Oregon State’s Rodgers appeared bothered by a sore ankle that lingered from last weekend’s 23-21 victory over UNLV last weekend. Quizz, as he is known, insisted all week his ankle was fine.
But his 31 yards rushing in the first half raised questions. Then he came out in the second half with his usual elusiveness for a 9-yard touchdown run that narrowed Cincinnati’s lead to 21-15,
Quizz was the Pac-10’s offensive player of the year last season as a freshman. He and big brother James Rodgers, a flanker, had scored six of Oregon State’s seven touchdowns through two games this season, and accounted for 597 yards in total offense.
Against Cincinnati Quizz had 73 for the game, and admitted afterward that his ankle was indeed “tender.” James Rodgers ran for 67 yards and caught 11 passes for 90 yards.
While propelled by its offense, Cincinnati’s defense passed its first major test.
Playing under new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, the Bearcats returned only one starter on defense. But they shut down Rutgers in a 47-15 season-opening victory and allowed only a field goal to Southeast Missouri State.
Oregon State appeared to find weaknesses in the second half. Senior linebacker Keaton Kristick’s first career interception shifted the momentum until Gilyard’s reception snuffed it.
Oregon State went up 6-0 in the first quarter on a pair of field goals by Justin Kahut from 46 and 39 yards.
The Bearcats went ahead 7-6 on Pike’s 7-yard run, but Oregon State responded with a safety and regained the lead.
Cincinnati went ahead 21-8 before the half on Isaiah Pead’s 1-yard scoring run and Pike’s 45-yard touchdown pass to DJ Woods.
Rodgers’ scoring run opened the second half and Kahut’s 23-yeard field goal to open the fourth quarter narrowed it further for Oregon State. But the Beavers couldn’t get any closer.
“We’re only going to get better,” Gilyard said. “I’m glad we have had these tough games early, so we could get it rolling.”