Fordham-Cincinnati Preview

The Associated PressOctober 9, 2012

A rout of a non-conference rival helped propel Cincinnati into the Top 25 for the first time this season. A meeting with an FCS opponent certainly shouldn't end its stay.

Off to their best start in three seasons, the No. 21 Bearcats look to stay undefeated when they host Fordham on Saturday night.

Cincinnati's biggest victory through the first month of the season was a 27-24 neutral-site win over a mediocre Virginia Tech squad Sept. 29. That's the closest an opponent has come to beating the Bearcats (4-0), who have defeated the other three by an average of 26.0 points.

The Bearcats scored 28 unanswered second-half points en route to a 52-14 win over Miami (Ohio) last Saturday.

Munchie Legaux was 13 of 23 for 157 yards with two touchdowns in three quarters, and George Winn ran 16 times for 128 yards with two scores as Cincinnati won its 23rd straight non-conference game at Nippert Stadium.

Winners of seven in a row since a 20-3 loss at Rutgers on Nov. 19, Cincinnati returned to the Top 25 this week for the first time since it was ranked 25th in last season's final poll.

While the Bearcats' offense took some time to get going versus Miami, their defense recorded four turnovers, including three interceptions. Camerron Cheatham's 68-yard interception return for a score erased a 6-0 first-quarter deficit.

Cincinnati is forcing an average of 2.8 turnovers, tops among Big East teams.

"All we can do is look forward," linebacker Maalik Bomar told the Bearcats' official website. "(The last game) definitely helps us out. The little things in detail. Communication, schemes, all that helps. We are definitely clicking."

The Bearcats expect that defensive progression to continue in their second game this season against an FCS opponent and first-ever meeting with Fordham (4-2). Cincinnati originally planned to face TCU in this spot on its schedule before the Horned Frogs backed out of their commitment to join the Big East. The Bearcats beat FCS school Delaware State 23-7 on Sept. 15.

Cincinnati did not take Delaware State lightly and expects to have the same focus Saturday as it tries to continue the program's best start since the 2009 team went 12-0 before losing 51-24 to Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

While the Rams lead the Patriot League in scoring (31.8) and senior Carlton Koonce averages 135.3 rushing yards, they'll face a Cincinnati squad which averages a Big East-best 34.0 points and has outscored opponents 61-14 in the first half of its three home games.

Winn averages 111.5 yards rushing to rank second in the Big East and Cincinnati leads the conference with 223.3 per game. The Bearcats would like to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible in a second consecutive favorable matchup.

"We put all that effort into running the football (last week)," said coach Butch Jones, whose team rushed for a season-high 272 yards last weekend. "That's where we will go back to work and improve on it as a football team because as the season progresses and we start to make it to league plays, those are very important areas where we have to make great strides."

Things get much tougher for Jones' team following this contest. The Bearcats go on the road for their next two games, facing in-state foe Toledo - winner of five straight - before taking on No. 18 Louisville.

Cincinnati has won seven in a row against unranked non-conference opponents.