Cincinnatti tops Southern Miss 31-21
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A dominant offensive performance from the No. 20 Cincinnati Bearcats lifted them to their first 10-win season since 1951 with a 31-21 victory in the PapaJohns.com Bowl over the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. The Bearcats were led by mobile quarterback Ben Mauk who threw for 334-yards and four touchdowns in addition to leading the Bearcats in rushing. Mauk was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
Despite an impressive performance from sophomore running back Damion Fletcher who led all players with 155 yards on the ground, the Golden Eagles were not able to outscore the powerful Cincinatti offense and fell to 7-6 on the season to close out their final season under longtime head coach Jeff Bower.
Both Mauk and Southern Miss quarterback Jeremy Young faced heavy defensive pressure for most of the game throwing three interceptions each, but both players were able to evade pressure with their athleticism and make plays for their team on the ground with Young rushing for 55 yards and one touchdown and Mauk leading the Bearcats with 25 yards on the ground.
Defensively, linebacker Richard Henderson led the Golden Eagles with 8 tackles while the Bearcats were led by Terrill Byrd with 9 tackles and 2 sacks.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk. Despite throwing a few careless picks, Mauk was the engine that made the Bearcat offense run. His ability to make tacklers miss and evade sacks allowed his gang of talented receivers time to get open and make plays throughout the game.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Dominick Goodman's touchdown catch late in the second quarter. After having a potentially spectacular touchdown catch overruled on the previous drive, Goodman came through for the Bearcats again hauling in an impressive catch in the back of the endzone in tight coverage to give the Bearcats a 14-7 lead going into the half.
NOTES: Cincinnati's 10-3 mark this season is only the second 10-win season in school history...Damion Fletcher set the all-time single-season rushing record at Southern Miss with 1,553 yards...While three different players hauled in interceptions for the Golden Eagles (Brandon Sumrall, LeVance Richmond, Justin Wilson) all three of the Bearcats' interceptions came from DeAngelo Smith.