CINCINNATI — Michael Warren ran 13 yards for a touchdown on a cold, raw Saturday night, Coby Bryant went 98 yards with a blocked extra-point attempt, and Cincinnati (No. 17 AP, No. 19 College Football Playoff) held on for a 15-13 victory over Temple that clinched a spot in the American Athletic Conference title game.
The Bearcats (10-1, 7-0) secured the AAC East title and remained the only unbeaten team in league play. They would host the title game if they win next week at No. 18 Memphis (10-1, 6-1), which shares the AAC West lead.
Temple (7-4, 4-3) had won four straight against Cincinnati with its dominant defense but couldn’t get enough out of its offense until it was too late on a windy, rainy night with temperatures in the 30s and snow falling in the closing minutes. Receivers from both teams had trouble catching the ball, leaving it to the running games and special teams to decide matters.
Cincinnati got the better of it both ways.
In addition to Warren’s touchdown run, the Bearcats blocked the extra-point try after Re’Mahn Davis’ 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Bryant gathered the ball at the right sideline, ran across the field, and made it untouched for two points and a 15-6 lead.
Anthony Russo’s 16-yard touchdown pass cut it to 15-13 with 6:33 left, but his interception with 1:19 left closed it out. <WC>The junior was 24-for-43 passing for 228 yards, but his completions were for an average of 5.3 yards.
Sophomore quarterback Todd Centeio completed one of two passes for 4 yards.
Jadan Blue made 13 catches for 120 yards, but no other Temple receiver had more than three receptions.
Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder played despite a sore passing shoulder and was only 9 of 25 for 62 yards. Warren finished with 106 yards rushing.
The Bearcats led 6-0 at halftime on Sam Crosa’s field goals of 36 and 37 yards, the latter set up by another weird special-teams play. Temple punter Adam Barry put his right knee on the ground while fielding a low snap, turning the ball over at the 6. Ridder was sacked on first down, and the Bearcats settled for a field goal.
It was the second straight game that Cincinnati failed to get into the end zone in the opening half. They trailed 10-0 at South Florida before rallying for a 20-17 win on Crosa’s field goal on the last play.
The Owls entered the game second-to-last in the AAC in rushing. They lost 5 yards on the ground in the first half and were held to 78 yards for the game. Jager Gardner failed to get a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Cincinnati 18 in the second half.