4:00 PM ET, September 7, 2009
High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
Cincinnati runs over Rutgers as Pike sets career high by throwing for 362 yards
PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly unleashed his high-speed, no-huddle offense -- and quarterback Tony Pike pushed it into overdrive.
Pike threw for a career-high 362 yards and three touchdowns, and the defending Big East champion Bearcats hurried past Rutgers 47-15 on Monday.
Bennett: Opening With Bang
Tony Pike showed why many think he's the Big East's best quarterback with a commanding opening act, writes ESPN.com's Brian Bennett. Blog
"The pace was absolutely crucial today," said Kelly, who began his third season with the Bearcats as a rising star in the business. "You knew what Rutgers was going to do and that is control the clock. So we knew it was absolutely crucial to push the ball down the court."
Courted by Washington and Tennessee last season, Kelly might not be long for the Queen City and his team showed why in the season opener.
The Bearcats pushed it Oklahoma-style and put up 510 yards and 45 points in the first three quarters. They also got a jump on the conference race by improving to 4-0 against Rutgers since joining the league.
With the luxury of a returning starter at quarterback for the first time at UC, Kelly doesn't have to hold anything back offensively.
• Cincinnati won its fifth straight season opener and beat Rutgers for the fourth straight time, evening the series at 7-7-1.
• Cincinnati has won six straight Big East games since losing to Connecticut last October.
• Quarterback Tony Pike threw for a career-high 362 yards and matched a career-high with three touchdowns.
• Rutgers suffered its worst loss since the last time it opened the season against a conference opponent in 1997 against Virginia Tech (59-19 loss).
• The Scarlet Knights have been outscored 71-22 in their last two season openers after losing to Fresno State 24-7 in 2008.
-- ESPN Stats & Information
"I didn't do a lot of heavy lifting today from the sidelines," he said. "All those kids out there really made this thing work."
The Scarlet Knights, looking to christen their newly expanded stadium and extend a seven-game winning streak, couldn't keep up. Instead, it looked like the bad ol' days at Rutgers. It was the most points allowed by the Scarlet Knights since Virginia Tech put up 48 in October 2003.
"Certainly not what my visions were of what today was going to be like," said coach Greg Schiano, who has built Rutgers from a sadsack program to a consistent winner in his nine seasons.
Domenic Natale threw three first-half interceptions for the Scarlet Knights and the senior left open the possibility that his first career start could be his last. Highly touted freshman Tom Savage played the second half and finished 15 of 23 for 135 yards with a touchdown pass.
With Pike directing traffic at the line of scrimmage, the Bearcats burned down the field on the opening drive of the game, covering 81 yards in 2:29 without an incomplete pass. Pead capped the drive with a 2-yard TD run.
"Definitely a byproduct of our experience," Pike said about the speed and efficiency of the offense. "I think our offense tonight was light years ahead of where we were last year at this time."
Rutgers' response to UC's speed was a methodical, 20-play, 78-yard touchdown drive, that took more than 10 minutes and was capped by a 5-yard run by Joe Martinek.
Ultimately, though, the team breaking in a new quarterback was no match for the one with a seasoned veteran.
Natale, replacing the departed Mike Teel, held the ball too long and had several throws sail high. Cincinnati turned his first two picks into touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Pike went 20 of 25 in the first half for 286 yards with touchdown passes of 5 yards to Gilyard and 41 yards to Pead as the Bearcats raced to a 31-7 halftime lead.
"I thought we were a step behind all day -- two steps," Schiano said.
Cincinnati even gave Rutgers a dose of the Wildcat -- maybe the Bearcat? -- with redshirt freshman tight end Travis Kelce, a former quarterback, taking two snaps and bulling 16 yards to finish off the first of three consecutive second-quarter touchdown drives.
Kelce added a 2-yard TD run in the third quarter out of a formation Kelly said he picked up during a trip to Florida.
"We stole it from them. I'm fine saying that," Kelly said with a smile. "And we executed it well."
That made it 38-7 and Rutgers' big day was ruined.
The two-year project to enclose the stadium, put in luxury suites and install a new scoreboard increased capacity from about 42,000 to more than 52,000 and cost $102 million.
A crowd of 53,737 was raucous early, quiet and dejected by halftime and mostly out the door by the fourth quarter.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-8||6-16|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||4-4|
|TD||12:31||Isaiah Pead 2 Yd Run (Jake Rogers Kick)||7||0|
|TD||01:47||Joe Martinek 4 Yd Run (San San Te Kick)||7||7|
|FG||13:48||Jake Rogers 30 Yd||10||7|
|TD||06:35||Travis Kelce 4 Yd Run (Jake Rogers Kick)||17||7|
|TD||02:30||Marshwan Gilyard 5 Yd Pass From Tony Pike (Jake Rogers Kick)||24||7|
|TD||00:54||Isaiah Pead 41 Yd Pass From Tony Pike (Jake Rogers Kick)||31||7|
|TD||07:42||Travis Kelce 2 Yd Run (Jake Rogers Kick)||38||7|
|TD||01:10||Jacob Ramsey 1 Yd Pass From Tony Pike (Jake Rogers Kick)||45||7|
|TD||11:25||Shamar Graves 7 Yd Pass From Tom Savage (Tom Savage Pass To Mohamed Sanu For Two-Point Conversion)||45||15|
|SF||06:59||Penalty On Tom Savage In End Zone||47||15|