The bowl season has not been particularly kind to the AAC, but Cincinnati (11-2) picked up a good win against Virginia Tech (6-7) in a Military Bowl that went down to the wire. Michael Warren II scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:29 to play to give the Bearcats a four-point lead, and the defense held on for the win. An interception by James Wiggins essentially clinched the win for the Bearcats in the final minute of the game.
Cincinnati won the game despite losing starting quarterback Desmond Ridder to an injury in the fir half. Hayden Moore came in to lead the offense, and he completed 11 of 25 passes for 120 yards with an interception. That led Warren to put the team on his back with 166 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter. Virginia Tech’s defense had not been quite the normal defense you expect from a Bud Foster defense over the years, and the Bearcats continued that trend in the bowl game with some big plays and big runs in big moments. Cincinnati converted 6 of 13 third downs and was one-for-one on fourth down as well despite a sub-par passing attack.
Virginia Tech also had two turnovers, including one fumble on a busted fourth-and-one play near the Cincinnati goal line that really hurt Virginia Tech. Leading 31-28 midway through the fourth quarter and setting up the offense at the Cincinnati 12-yard line following an interception, the Hokies wasted an opportunity to create a two-score advantage. Ryan Willis was run back for a loss of 13 yards and fumbled the ball away on 4th & 1 just four plays after the defense came up with a big play. Cincinnati wound up having to punt the ball away, but being so close to a possible touchdown only to come away with nothing has to sting for Virginia Tech given the outcome.
The win was Cincinnati’s first bowl win since 2012 when the program won the Belk Bowl despite former head coach Butch Jones leaving the job before the bowl game to become the head coach at Tennessee. Cincinnati also pulled one game closer to a .500 all-time record against the Hokies, with Virginia Tech now leading the all-time series 6-5 dating back to 1985. Cincinnati has won four of the last five meetings with Virginia Tech since 2006, including a 2-2 record in bowl games.
Cincinnati’s 11-2 record is the best for the program since going 12-1 in the 2009 season, which was coached by Brian Kelly before he left before the Sugar Bowl to become the head coach at Notre Dame. Luke Fickell, unless anything changes in the ongoing coaching carousel craziness, should be staying put for now. And after coaching the Bearcats to a 4-8 record in his first season and tacking on seven more wins this season, he has done well for himself.
On the flip side, Virginia Tech suffered its first losing season since 1992, the second year Virginia Tech was a member of the Big East. Virginia Tech has now seen their win total drop each of the past two seasons since winning 10 games in the first year with Justin Fuente as head coach. no need to hit any panic buttons in Blacksburg yet, however. But don’t be surprised if Fuente takes some time to evaluate a few things with his program heading into 2019.