NCAA Football

Temple falls just short of upsetting No. 17 Cincinnati

usa_jadan_blue_temple_cincinnati.jpg
USA Today Images/Aaron Doster

Temple falls just short of upsetting No. 17 Cincinnati

BOX SCORE 

CINCINNATI — A blocked extra-point attempt turned into Cincinnati’s decisive points. In a season full of close escapes, this one was the most unusual.

And the most meaningful, too. The Bearcats’ year of living dangerously has culminated in the American Athletic title game.

Michael Warren II ran 13 yards for a touchdown on a cold, raw Saturday night, Coby Bryant went 98 yards with a blocked extra-point attempt and No. 17 Cincinnati held on for a 15-13 victory over Temple that clinched a spot in the league’s championship 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.

Of course, it didn’t come easy. With these ‘Cats, it never does.

“Well, I don’t know where to start,” coach Luke Fickell said. “Another one that some way, somehow, we found a way. We showed the resiliency to get it done and found a new way tonight.”

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 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, the Bearcats blocked the extra-point try after Re’Mahn Davis’ touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Bryant gathered the ball at the right sideline, ran across the field and went untouched for two points and a 15-6 lead.

“It was amazing!” linebacker Perry Young said. “You just love to see that.”

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. Russo finished 24 of 43 for 228 yarbds.

Warren finished with 106 yards rushing. Desmond Ridder played despite a sore passing shoulder that kept him out of practice early in the week and was only 9 of 25 for 62 yards.

“Des was banged up and wasn’t able to go most of the week,” Fickell said. “As the week progressed, Des showed us something. He said he could do it, he said he could go.”

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.

Temple missed a field goal attempt and was stopped on fourth-and-1 from the Cincinnati 18-yard line in the second half as the Owls were eliminated from the division race.

“We’ve still got a lot left to play for this season,” coach Rod Carey said. “Eight wins is a big deal, and we’ve got a bowl yet. When you look at it holistically, we’re growing this program. That’s what I told them.”

Big picture 

Temple: The Owls came in second-to-last in the AAC in rushing and lost five yards on the ground in the first half. Jager Gardner failed to get a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Cincinnati 18 in the second half.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats have struggled offensively in their last two games, a major concern heading into the final week of the regular season. The passing game failing to get into a rhythm for the second straight game. In the last two games, Ridder is 18 of 43 for 140 yards.

Seeing Blue 

Temple’s Jadan Blue set the Temple single-season record with 80 catches, topping Zamir Cobb’s mark of 74 in 2003. Blue has 923 yards receiving. He finished with 13 catches for 120 yards, his third straight game with at least 10 catches and 100 yards.

Flags galore 

Cincinnati was penalized nine times for 74 yards, including personal fouls for roughing the passer and a horse-collar tackle. The Bearcats lead the FBS in penalties.

Up next 

Temple: Hosts UConn.

Cincinnati: At Memphis. The Tigers beat South Florida 49-10 on Saturday to maintain a share of the AAC West lead and stay in contention for a third straight appearance in the AAC title game.

No. 5 Penn State is unbeaten no more after loss to No. 13 Minnesota

usa_mariano_sori_marin_minnesota_football.jpg
USA Today Images/Jesse Johnson

No. 5 Penn State is unbeaten no more after loss to No. 13 Minnesota

BOX SCORE

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota's Jordan Howden picked off Sean Clifford in the end zone with 1:01 left, the third interception thrown by Penn State's quarterback, and the 13th-ranked Gophers held on for a 31-26 victory on Saturday afternoon over the fifth-ranked Nittany Lions for their first win over a top-five team in 20 years.

Tanner Morgan passed for 339 yards and three touchdowns to direct a dismantling of Penn State's staunch defense, as Minnesota (9-0, 6-0, No. 17 CFP) not only remained undefeated but stayed on track for its first trip to the Big Ten championship game.

The first sellout crowd for the Gophers at home in four years swarmed the field after the clock ran out, reveling in the biggest step forward yet under coach P.J. Fleck in his third season. The Gophers scrambled the College Football Playoff picture, too, after Penn State (8-1, 5-1, No. 4 CFP) emerged with a top-four spot in the first edition of the rankings.

Rashod Bateman got the Gophers going with a 66-yard score on their first possession and finished with seven catches for 203 yards, the second-most in program history. Tyler Johnson had seven receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown, too, as Minnesota made enough early gains to hold up during the late rally by Penn State.

Journey Brown's second rushing touchdown of the game with 3:49 to go cut the lead to five points, and the Gophers promptly went three and out. K.J. Hamler muffed the punt when a teammate backed into him, and though the Nittany Lions recovered, they were pushed back to their 28-yard line.

Clifford, who went 23 for 43 for 340 yards and one score, connected with Jahan Dotson for 49 yards to get Penn State to the 11. Two plays later, however, came the drive killer for Penn State. Daniel George was called for offensive pass interference during an over-the-middle catch by Brown that reached the 2. Clifford, who was off target for most of the day, overthrew George on the next play before the game-sealing pick by Howden. Clifford, who came into the game leading the Big Ten in total offense, had only three interceptions over the first eight games.

Antoine Winfield Jr. had the first two picks in the first half, matching the FBS lead and setting the all-time Minnesota record with seven on the season. Both were inside the 10-yard line.

The Gophers had 321 yards and a 24-13 lead at halftime, already the most points allowed in a game by the Nittany Lions this season, but a fumble near midfield by Shannon Brooks at the end of a run on the first play after a punt sapped some momentum.

Penn State went the other way for a touchdown pass from Clifford to backup tight end Nick Bowers, but Bateman broke open again for a 36-yard gain on the next drive to set up a scoring plunge by Seth Green. The Gophers have touchdowns on all 19 of their goal-to-go possessions this season. Chris Williamson batted down Clifford's fourth-down throw into the end zone on the ensuing drive by Penn State, giving the Gophers another opportunity to drain the clock.

The takeaway

Penn State: Seeking their first berth in the College Football Playoff, the Nittany Lions watched a defense that had allowed the second-fewest points in the FBS entering the game take a step back against a group of Gophers receivers that was the best they'd faced all year.

Minnesota: Ending a 13-game losing streak to ranked opponents and beating a top-five team for the first time since a win at No. 2 Penn State in 1999, the Gophers produced a potentially program-changing victory that has been missing for so many decades. They have a two-game lead in the West Division with three to go.

Poll impliacations 

Penn State could fall behind Minnesota, which will certainly climb into the top 10 when the next rankings come out on Sunday. The loss will also hurt the Nittany Lions in the CFP pecking order, with the Gophers getting a boost but still with a long way to go to be in the mix.

Up next 

Penn State: Hosts Indiana next Saturday. The Nittany Lions have a 21-1 record against the Hoosiers, with the only loss on the road 2013.

Minnesota: Plays at Iowa next Saturday. The Gophers have lost four straight games against the Hawkeyes.

No. 10 Penn State holds off No. 17 Iowa

penn-state-usa.jpg
USA Today Images/Jeffrey Becker

No. 10 Penn State holds off No. 17 Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Noah Cain ran for a five-yard touchdown with 5:17 left and 10th-ranked Penn State held off No. 17 Iowa 17-12 on Saturday night, its first win over a ranked opponent this season.

Cain finished with 102 yards for the Nittany Lions (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten), who extended their winning streak over the Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-2) to six games.

A matchup between two of the nation's top defenses turned when Iowa's Nate Stanley threw an interception near midfield with 9:22 remaining. Penn State drove 35 yards on a gassed Iowa defense, and the last of three straight runs by Cain made it 17-6.

Iowa pulled within 17-12 when Stanley found Brandon Smith for a 33-yard TD pass with 2:31 to go. The Hawkeyes' two-point try failed though, and Cain converted a crucial third down that ensured that Iowa never saw the ball again.

Up 7-6 late in the third quarter, Penn State recovered a fumble at Iowa's 16 and Sean Clifford connected on an apparent touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth that was overturned on review. Iowa then held the Nittany Lions at the 1-foot line, and two straight holding calls forced them to settle for a 33-yard field goal.

KJ Hamler caught seven passes, including a 22-yarder for a TD, for Penn State.

Stanley threw for 286 yards, but the Hawkeyes ran for just 70 yards on 30 attempts.

THE TAKEAWAY

Penn State: The Nittany Lions survived their toughest road challenge outside of a trip to Ohio State on Nov. 23. Penn State was on the road against a talented team with a jacked-up crowd, and yet the Nittany Lions were the ones making the plays that made the difference.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes nearly went back-to-back games without a touchdown. Granted, Michigan and Penn State are really good on defense. But Iowa can't continue to lean on its own defense to keep it in games. At 1-2 in the league and with Wisconsin looking like one of the best teams in America, the Big Ten West doesn't look so winnable anymore.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Penn State might move up a few spots. Iowa might struggle to hang onto its spot in the Top 25 after back-to-back losses.

UP NEXT

Penn State hosts Michigan on Oct. 19.

Iowa hosts Purdue next Saturday.