Cincinnati handles Syracuse to stay alive in Big East title hunt

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Munchie Legaux threw for two touchdowns, one a short toss that Isaiah Pead turned into a backbreaking 69-yard score in the fourth quarter, and Tony Miliano kicked three field goals as Cincinnati beat Syracuse 30-13 on Saturday to remain in the running for the Big East title.

When play began Saturday, four teams remained in the hunt for the Big East's automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series and the Bearcats (8-3, 4-2 Big East) were one of them. They could clinch a share of the title by winning their final game at home next week against Connecticut, but they also needed losses by West Virginia and Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights obliged, losing at UConn on Saturday.

A loss next week by Cincinnati would give Louisville, 5-2 in the Big East, the title. If there's a tie, the team with the highest BCS ranking would get the conference's automatic BCS bid.

It was the fourth straight loss for Syracuse (5-6, 1-5 Big East), which needs to win at Pittsburgh next week to become eligible for the postseason.

Without senior quarterback Zach Collaros, who's out for the rest of the regular season with a broken right ankle, the Bearcats had become vulnerable, losing two straight. In a 20-3 loss at Rutgers last week, Cincinnati was limited to a season-low 225 total yards with Legaux at the helm in his first college start.

Legaux entered the Syracuse game 27 of 59 for 363 yards and two interceptions and no touchdowns. He did just enough on this day, completing 13 of 22 passes for 169 yards, without a turnover or a sack. Pead finished with 244 all-purpose yards, including nine receptions for 112 yards.

Ryan Nassib was 19 of 38 for 203 yards passing with one touchdown and interception for Syracuse. Antwon Bailey had 27 carries for 135 yards to go over 2,000 yards for his career and Nick Provo had a 13-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter to pull Syracuse within 23-13.

Syracuse was unable to gain any kind of field advantage the entire game, starting no better than its own 26. The Bearcats did, though, and none better than on the second-half kickoff.

Freshman Ralph David Abernathy IV returned the kick 71 yards, failing to beat the only defender left between him and the end zone as kicker Ross Krautman made a saving tackle at the Orange 24. It went for naught when Pead scored on the next play for a 17-6 lead.

Backup quarterback Jordan Luallen's 49-yard run set up the Bearcats at the Syracuse 1 midway through the third, but he lost 2 yards on the next play and a false start put the Bearcats back at the 8 and they had to settle for Miliano's 22-yard field goal for a 20-6 lead.

Miliano upped it to 23-6 with a 48-yard field goal at 4:40 of the third and Pead put the game out of reach when he took a dump pass over the middle from Legaux and scored with 9:13 left in the fourth.

Against Rutgers, Legaux was 12 of 31 for 158 yards and one interception and rushed for another 31 yards on 12 carries in his first start in place of Collaros. He was better against the Orange and began to show it late in the second quarter.

After briefly being pulled in favor of Luallen, Legaux overcame a personal foul penalty whistled against Bearcats tight end Travis Kelce. Cool in the face of the Syracuse rush and backpedaling to stay out of trouble, Legaux hit a wide-open D.J. Woods for 29 yards.

After Syracuse linebacker Dyshawn Davis was called for a horse-collar tackle, Legaux hit Kelce for a 2-yard touchdown pass with 2:06 left in the second for a 10-6 halftime lead.

Nassib hit Provo for a 13-yard score on third down to pull Syracuse within 23-13 heading to the fourth.