Cincinnati defeated No. 18 UCF 27-24 on Friday night to join Temple in first place the AAC's East Division. And the Bearcats' upset? Well, it was hardly an upset. They never let up after taking a lead midway through the third quarter, holding the potent Knights offense to only eight points over the final two quarters. Cincinnati controlled the clock and held serve despite a late UCF push, converting on a late fourth-and-1 play to ice the game.
The big question in this game would be which strength would win out -- UCF's offense, which ranks top 10 in the country or Cincinnati's defense, which ranks inside the top 25 nationally. It was clear the latter won the day. In addition to suffocating the Knights by holding them to a season-low 24 points -- the lowest offensive output for the program since the 2016 season -- the Bearcats forced four turnovers while forcing freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel into committing three of them via interceptions.
The loss for UCF ends its 20-game winning streak in AAC play that dated back to the 2016 season and also its 31-game streak of scoring 30 or more points. Streaks ending for the Knights has become an unwelcome theme in recent weeks. In Week 4, the Knights were defeated by Pitt, a loss that snapped the program's then-FBS record of 27 consecutive wins in the regular season.
UCF's offense managed to still outgain Cincinnati through the air and in total yards, but Cincinnati's 192 yards rushing was key to its win, allowing it to own time of possession and drain the clock late. Junior running back Michael Warren II rushed for 133 of those yards while quarterback Desmond Ridder -- who also threw for two scores -- added 41 yards on the ground.
For Cincinnati, this was a huge statement. After being flattened by Ohio State 42-0 in Week 2, the Bearcats have ripped off three consecutive wins culminating with their first victory over a ranked opponent in the regular season since 2009.