CINCINNATI (AP) After waiting for more than a year to get back home, a storm forced the Bearcats to wait even longer. Gunner Kiel made the delayed homecoming a lopsided success.
Kiel sat out a long storm delay, and then threw for a pair of touchdowns in limited action, leading Cincinnati to a 52-10 victory over Alabama A&M in a return to its on-campus stadium.
”It was a very long day, but it was well worth it,” coach Tommy Tuberville said.
The Bearcats (0-1) were back at Nippert Stadium, which underwent an $86 million renovation during the past year. Cincinnati played at Paul Brown Stadium last season and won a share of the American Athletic Conference title on its temporary home field.
”Unbelievable,” Kiel said. ”It was so much fun to be back in our home.”
Kiel, who led the league with 31 touchdown passes in his first collegiate season, helped the Bearcats pull ahead 35-7 at halftime. He went 18 of 22 for 233 yards with touchdown passes of 6 and 47 yards to Johnny Holton Jr.
Alabama A&M is coming off a four-win season and lacks an experienced quarterback. The Bulldogs used junior college transfer De’Angelo ”Tootie” Ballard and redshirt freshman Damion May, who went a combined 10 of 26 for 148 yards with an interception.
The game drew 39,095 fans, a record for the stadium with its increased seating capacity.
The start was delayed 90 minutes because of a storm. Dozens of Cincinnati students stormed the field pregame, bored at waiting through the long delay. They quickly retreated to the stands when security headed out from under cover.
”I really want to thank the fans,” Tuberville said. ”They ran out of the stands. I thought they were going to have to arrest all of them.”
The Bearcats ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while waiting anxiously for word about when – or if – they might play.
”That was kind of rough, honestly,” said Kiel, who never had to sit out a weather delay. ”But we weren’t goofing around in the locker room, and it showed.”
Kiel made the soaked student section happy by completing all five of his passes in Cincinnati’s opening drive, including a 6-yard TD pass. The Bearcats bogged down with Kiel’s fumble and a blocked punt.
Cincinnati put it away with 28 points in the second quarter, its biggest quarter in four years. The Bearcats have put more emphasis on the running game, trying to take some of the burden off Kiel, and did a better job of mixing in runs.
Hosey Williams had a 6-yard TD run, and Mike Boone scored twice from the 1-yard line during the big quarter. Kiel’s 47-yard touchdown pass to Holton completed a 97-yard drive.
”It could have been closer, but this team is expected to win their conference,” Bulldogs coach James Spady said. ”We can’t be ashamed of the way we competed.”
The Bearcats rushed for 296 yards overall and four touchdowns, with Tion Green picking up 127 yards. Redshirt freshman Hayden Moore played the second half and completed 8 of 14 for 107 yards with a touchdown.
”You hear a lot about our receivers,” said Boone, who ran for 86 yards. ”It was great to show that we can run the ball.”
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