SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Doug Marrone didn't envision his third season at Syracuse ending like this. With one game remaining in the regular season, the Orange have to win it or they won't be playing in a bowl game.
Isaiah Pead gained 246 all-purpose yards and scored twice, and Munchie Legaux managed the game well in just his second college start, throwing for two touchdowns without committing a turnover as Cincinnati beat Syracuse 30-13 on Saturday.
It was the fourth straight loss for Syracuse (5-6, 1-5 Big East).
``Obviously, I'm upset,' Marrone said. ``I don't think I can even explain how I feel. Losing four straight games is unacceptable. We got beat in all three phases.'
With Cincinnati holding a 23-13 lead heading to the fourth quarter and the Orange offense showing signs of emerging from a game-long slumber, Pead took a dump pass over the middle from Legaux and took it 69 yards for a critical score.
Now the Orange have to win at Pittsburgh next week to become eligible for the postseason.
``Everything's on the line,' said senior tailback Antwon Bailey, who had 135 yards rushing to go over 2,000 yards for his career in his final game in the Carrier Dome. ``Of course it touches me. We still have everything in front of us. We still have one more game. We can still go out on top. It's like a playoff game. We either win or go home.'
After Ryan Nassib hit tight end Nick Provo for a 13-yard touchdown to narrow the Bearcats' lead to 23-13 heading to the fourth quarter, Pead put the game out of reach when he took a dump pass over the middle from Legaux and took it 69 yards for a touchdown with 9:13 left.
``I really can't explain how upset everybody is,' Orange senior linebacker Dan Vaughan said. ``It's just tough to deal with. They beat us in all three phases of the game.'
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.
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 and was not sacked. Pead also had nine receptions for 112 yards and two punt returns for 54.
Ryan Nassib was 19 of 38 for 203 yards passing with one touchdown and interception for Syracuse.
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 Tony Miliano's 22-yard field goal for a 20-6 lead.
Last week 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.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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