Cincinnati forces three turnovers in rout of NC State

CINCINNATI -- Six sacks, three more turnovers. Sure felt like a throwback game for Cincinnati's defense.

Zach Collaros scrambled for two touchdowns and threw for two more, and Cincinnati's defense had its way for much of the game Thursday night, helping the Bearcats pull away to a 44-14 victory over North Carolina State.

The Bearcats (3-1) put together one of their most complete wins in coach Butch Jones' two seasons, with the defense playing a starring role -- much like it did in 2008, when they won the first of their two Big East titles.

"That's what Cincinnati is," said linebacker J.K. Schaffer, who had one of Cincinnati's two interceptions. "If you look at Cincinnati three years ago, their defense got after it. And we want to get back to that. We've done that last game and this game, and we want to do it every single game."

NC State (2-2) couldn't handle the Bearcats' defensive pressure or keep up with Collaros, who repeatedly scrambled out of grasps and made pinpoint throws on the run. He ran 13 and 10 yards for touchdowns, and hooked up with running back Isaiah Pead on a 25-yard screen pass for another score. Pead ran for 167 yards and scored twice.

"He was really in charge and really in command," Jones said. "He played the way we expect him to play."

The Wolfpack's Mike Glennon threw touchdown passes of 87 and 49 yards to T.J. Graham, but had two interceptions that set up early Cincinnati touchdowns and set the tone.

"Things started snowballing," NC State middle linebacker Audie Cole said. "They played well. We gave up containment and Collaros is pretty athletic. You can't do that.

"Anytime you lose like that it is embarrassing."

The two-game series finished in a split -- the Wolfpack won 30-19 in Raleigh last year. The Bearcats were still stewing over that loss in the rematch.

"The whole offense saw how we played that game, and there definitely was a feeling of revenge," Collaros said. "We felt embarrassed by the way we played them last year."

The defense excelled for the second straight game.

Cincinnati got rattled during a 45-23 loss at Tennessee, then rebounded by returning a fumble and two interceptions for touchdowns during a 59-14 win over Akron last Saturday. The turnovers kept coming Thursday night.

Cincinnati scored on three consecutive possessions for a 21-0 lead against a Wolfpack defense depleted by injuries. Two touchdowns were set up by interceptions, a theme for Cincinnati this season.

The Bearcats have eight interceptions in four games and are among the nation's leaders in forcing turnovers -- 16 in all, scoring off 13 of them.

Glennon had a rough time, getting sacked five times. He also fumbled a snap in shotgun formation, scuttling a drive late in the first half. He finished 25 of 36 for 334 yards, getting a lot of yards but few points.

Glennon's ninth pass was off-target and intercepted by safety Drew Frey, setting up Pead's 2-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.

Collaros led the Bearcats to their next touchdown, completing a 44-yard pass while scrambling away from pressure. A roughing-the-passer penalty on Darryl Cato-Bishop on third down kept the drive going. Two plays later, Collaros scrambled 13 yards for a 14-0 lead.

Schaffer's third interception of the season ended the Wolfpack's next possession and set up a 10-yard draw play by Collaros for a 21-0 lead. Collaros ran nine times for 52 yards overall, and completed 25 of 34 passes for 263 yards with one interception.

Graham got the Wolfpack going with another catch-and-run. He took a short pass, slipped away from Camerron Cheatham and ran 87 yards, cutting the lead to 21-7. Collaros and the Bearcats then pulled away.

Graham has scored on catches of 63, 67, 87 and 49 yards in the last three games, putting together three straight 100-yard receiving efforts.

The Wolfpack's already depleted defensive line took another hit when tackle Brian Slay hurt his right ankle early in the second quarter and had to be helped off the field. Reserve tackle A.J. Ferguson also had to leave the game with an injured right knee but later returned.