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Cincinnati's late surge startles Hawaii

Dec 7, 2008 - 9:53 AM HONOLULU (Ticker) -- The beast of the Big East passed its test in the West - barely.

Twelfth-ranked Cincinnati capped a fourth-quarter surge with a 69-yard touchdown pass from Dustin Grutza to Marshwan Gilyard en route to a 29-24 victory over Hawaii on Saturday.

Hawaii was leading 24-10 in the fourth quarter when Cincinnati (11-2) erupted for four scoring plays in less than 7 1/2 minutes.

"In the second half, they took it to us. They forced fumbles, made plays when they needed to and we, obviously, were behind them," Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said. "We had to make plays defensively and we did. We made some plays, as we did all year, and found a way in the end to 'eek' out a hard fought victory."

The Bearcats' rally started when Brandon Underwood picked off a pass from Greg Alexander and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown that made it 24-17.

The Big East champions added a 44-yard field goal by Jake Rogers to make it 24-20 with eight minutes left.

Kevin Huber then pinned Hawaii on its 1 with a 52-yard punt. On the next play, Daniel Libre fumbled in the end zone and fell on it for a safety that made it 24-22 with less than five minutes left.

On the first play after the free kick, Grutza found Gilyard, who sprinted down the sideline to the end zone.

The win was Cincinnati's seventh straight and the Bearcats have won 11 games for the first time in school history.

"You don't want to come here and look at all the turnovers, and not to take anything away from Hawaii because they caused most of them," Kelly said. "But to get the 11th win on the road against a very good football team, and a bowl team, feels good."

Hawaii coach Greg McMackin passed along credit.

"You've got to give them credit, they made plays," he said. "They took the ball and ran it in for a touchdown. Then they got the safety, we kicked off and they got a big return. You have to give Cincinnati credit but I'm really proud of my football team because they played their tail off against a good football team.

"We played really hard and were ready for the game. We showed we could play with them. They made plays in the end and we didn't."

The Cincinnati passing attack had been sidetracked until that point, largely due to the loss of star wide receiver Dominick Goodman to a separated right shoulder on the first series of the game. The Bearcats hope that Goodman will be able to play in the Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech.

Hawaii (7-6) hadn't scored until Daniel Kelly kicked a 28-yard field goal to cap an 85-yard drive on the final play of the first half to make it 10-3.

The Warriors came out in the second half and marched 75 yards with David Farmer capping the drive from a yard out to tie the game at 10-10.

They continued the surge when Alexander connected with Malcolm Lane from 2 yards less than two minutes later to make it 17-10.

The Warriors doubled their lead in the fourth quarter. After Hawaii maintained possession on a review that validated an incomplete pass call, Alexander found Jon Medeiros with a 16-yard scoring strike to make it 24-10 with a little more than 12 minutes left.

"Well, certainly at that point we were kicking ourselves for the miscues," Kelly said. "But as has been with this team all year, we don't stop the game in the third quarter. You keep playing. The one good thing about this group is they keep fighting and they keep playing. And they overcame a lot of the miscues you were talking about."