CINCINNATI -- Ryan Nassib threw a pair of touchdown passes, taking advantage of Cincinnati's numerous turnovers, and Syracuse extended its best start in nine years on Saturday with a 31-7 victory over the Bearcats, who really missed their quarterback.
The Orange (6-2, 3-1 Big East) are done with their days at the bottom of the league, where they've languished the last five years.
Syracuse has made its quantum leap on the strength of a blitzing defense that creates havoc for quarterbacks and ranks 16th nationally in yards allowed. It forced a pair of fumbles and intercepted backup Chazz Anderson, setting up 17 points.
Cincinnati (3-5, 1-2) imploded without quarterback Zach Collaros, who bruised his left knee during a loss to South Florida that ended the Bearcats' streak of 13 straight conference wins. Anderson, making his first start in two years, botched a handoff and threw an interception at the Syracuse 3-yard line.
Anderson finished 18 of 33 for 148 yards with the one interception.
Collaros couldn't move very well in warmups and watched from the sideline in a sweatsuit as Cincinnati took its worst beating at home since a 38-0 loss to West Virginia in 2005.
The Orange have made a quick turnaround under second-year coach Doug Marrone. The 6-2 start is their best since 2001, when they finished 10-3 -- the last time they had a winning record.
By contrast, the two-time defending Big East champs are in trouble. Cincinnati has the least-experienced defense in the BCS -- eight sophomore starters -- and can't move the ball without Collaros, who has a bye week ahead to get healthy. Anderson was 2 of 5 for 8 yards in a scoreless first quarter that was a preview.
Nassib got Syracuse moving with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that included long third- and fourth-down completions. His pass to Van Chew on a 3-yard slant made it 7-0.
Things would only get worse for Cincinnati.
Anderson and Isaiah Pead botched a handoff on the next play, resulting in a fumble that Syracuse recovered at the 19. The Orange got to the 1-yard line, where Adam Harris fumbled while being tackled. Center Ryan Bartholomew recovered in the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
On Cincinnati's next play from scrimmage, D.J. Woods caught a short pass and fumbled, setting up a 26-yard field goal by Ross Krautman that made it 17-0 -- a huge lead given the Bearcats' inability to move on offense.
The Orange took a risk and gave up a big play, going after Anderson with an all-out blitz. He got the ball to a wide-open Woods down the middle of the field for a 33-yard touchdown play that cut the lead to 17-7 at halftime.
The Bearcats managed only 106 yards in the opening half, a huge comedown for the league's top offense. Cincinnati came in averaging 30.3 points and 446 yards per game.
Anderson's biggest gaffe of the game scuttled the opening drive of the second half and the Bearcats' chances of catching up.
On second-and-goal from the 6, Anderson threw the ball directly to middle linebacker Derrell Smith, who returned it to the Cincinnati 37-yard line. Nassib's second touchdown pass -- a 5-yarder to Antwon Bailey -- made it 24-7.
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