CINCINNATI -- — Cincinnati quarterback Emory Jones said Saturday was the first day in a long time that he was actually nervous before a game. Those nerves didn’t show on the field.
Jones threw five touchdown passes and ran for two more scores as Cincinnati opened its first season in the Big 12 Conference with a 66-13 rout of FCS-member Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.
“I definitely went out there and had fun,” Jones said. “That’s the main thing it was today -- just to go out there and have fun and execute, and everything would take care of itself.”
Jones’ seven total touchdowns tied a career high. The Florida and Arizona State transfer threw six scores and ran for another against Samford on Nov. 13, 2021, while playing for the Gators.
“I thought Emory played very well, obviously,” first-year Cincinnati coach Scott Satterfield said. “I thought he did a good job in his decision making. I felt we had some good receivers, and they proved that to be true today. The guys made some great plays, and the O-line did really good in the first half.”
Cincinnati got the ball first and first-year coach Scott Satterfield’s offense took just 3:09 to get on the board. Jones led a seven-play, 71-yard drive that ended with a 49-yard pass down the Eastern Kentucky sideline to wide receiver Xzavier Henderson for a touchdown.
Henderson finished the day with seven catches for a career-high 149 yards, while Jones completed each of his five touchdown passes to a different receiver.
“I have to call him ‘the lunch lady’ today. Everybody was eating,” Henderson said of Jones.
After a three-and-out by quarterback Parker McKinney and the Colonels on their first possession, Jones stayed hot on Cincinnati’s second drive, linking up with Dee Wiggins on a deep post for a 39-yard score.
Jones started 10-for-10 for 206 yards before throwing his first incompletion. He finishes 19 of 23 for 345 yards, his second career 300-yard passing game. He threw for 464 in that 70-52 win over Samford in 2021.
Jones added a rushing touchdown from a yard out to put Cincinnati ahead 21-0 just before the end of the first quarter.
Eastern Kentucky, a member of the United Athletic Conference, saw its next drive stall at the Cincinnati 17-yard line when Bearcats safety Bryon Threats collected his third career interception.
“He’s our energy guy back there,” Satterfield said of Threats. “He’s always talking and flying around and making plays. He does a good job of coming down and stopping the run, and then that was a big-time play there to get the interception when we needed one.”
Threats’ six-yard return set up a 54-yard run by Corey Kiner, who finished with 105 yards on 13 carries.
The Bearcats seized a commanding 28-0 lead three plays later on a 1-yard pass from Jones to Payten Singletary.
Jones evaded the rush and danced through the Colonels’ defense for the second rushing touchdown, the 16th of his career, with 7:17 to play in the first half.
The Colonels finally scored with 5:08 remaining in the first half. McKinney capped a four-play, 74-yard drive with a 17-yard pass across the middle to Hunter Brown, giving him a program-record 75 career passing touchdowns.
Jones’ sixth score of the half came on a short pass to Branden Smith, who raced 48 yards to the end zone.
Eastern Kentucky opened the second half by fumbling on its own 20-yard line when Daniel Grzesiak sacked McKinney and recovered the loose ball. The turnover led to a 46-yard field goal for a 45-7 lead.
Jones accounted for his seventh and final score on a 6-yard pass to Aaron Turner with 2:42 left in the third frame.
Eastern Kentucky: Located about 100 miles south of Cincinnati the Colonels have seven players the Cincinnati area. That familiarity wasn’t enough for Eastern Kentucky to secure a win against an FBS team for the second straight season. The Colonels defeated Bowling Green 59-57 in seven overtimes on Sept. 10, 2022.
“I think it helps in recruiting when you decide to come up here and recruit in Ohio,” Eastern Kentucky coach Walt Wells said. “It’s a two-hour drive down to Richmond. A lot of former players were here from the Cincinnati area, the Dayton area. It’s great for the kids on our football squad come home and play in front of their hometown.”
Cincinnati: Satterfield’s tenure at the helm of the Bearcats program couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. Satterfield was hired at Cincinnati in December after spending the precious four seasons at Louisville.
Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels head to Lexington to take on in-state foe Kentucky on Sept. 9. Eastern Kentucky is 0-5 against the Wildcats since 1978. The two teams last played in 2017. The Colonels lost 27-16 in Lexington.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats are back in action Sept. 9 at Pittsburgh, as the two teams renew the River City Rivalry. It will be the first meeting between the two programs since 2012. Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 8-4, but Cincinnati won the last two matchups.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll