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Brendon Kay helps Cincinnati beat Memphis 34-21
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Even with its road woes this season and the game tightening in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati didn't panic.
Brendon Kay threw for 321 yards and a touchdown, Cincinnati held Memphis to 232 yards of offense and the Bearcats beat the Tigers 34-21 on Wednesday night.
Kay was 27 of 35 to help Cincinnati (6-2, 3-1 American Athletic Conference) win its third straight. Anthony McClung finished with 98 yards receiving and a touchdown, and Shaq Washington had 11 catches for 96 yards.
Tion Green scored a pair of touchdowns, the final one from 3 yards with 1:26 remaining providing enough of a buffer after Memphis got within a touchdown.
''We just try to stay even keel,'' said running back Ralph David Abernathy, who had a 19-yard touchdown run in the first half. ''We try to keep level as possible. We don't try to get too high; we don't try to get too low. When it is time to go out and execute, that's what we do.''
Jordan Luallen also had a touchdown on the ground for the Bearcats.
Memphis' Paxton Lynch completed 17 of 33 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns, but the Tigers (1-6, 0-4) struggled on offense at key times.
''When they were in man coverage, we couldn't make the play,'' Memphis coach Justin Fuente said. ''That's kind of a synopsis of the game really. If you look at the one-on-one battles, we didn't win enough of those, whether it be man coverage in the secondary versus our secondary with their receivers or in the offensive and defensive line.''
Memphis' offense struggled throughout the game primarily because of the receivers' inability to catch the ball. Lynch's passing stats could have been much better, but receivers dropped at least a handful of passes, thwarting Memphis' opportunities.
''I got beat one time and he dropped the ball,'' Cincinnati safety Zach Edwards said. ''So we could have played better coverage. We're grateful for the drops, but we could have played better coverage.''
One pass that wasn't dropped was an interception of Lynch by Cincinnati's Deven Drane at the Memphis 25 with just under 9 minutes left.
The Bearcats would convert the turnover into a 24-yard scoring pass from Kay to McClung for a 27-14 lead with 7:23 remaining
That was an important touchdown because Memphis would put together a 75-yard drive and cut the lead to six at 27-21 when Brandon Hayes scored on a circuitous 31-yard run, ending with a dive from the 3-yard line to the pylon.
That was as close as Memphis could get as the final Cincinnati drive covered 61 yards and took almost 4 minutes late in the game.
The victory reversed Cincinnati's struggles on the road this season. Both of the Bearcat losses were on the road to Illinois and South Florida, and they had a 14-0 victory over winless Miami of Ohio.
The teams traded early touchdowns with the Tigers benefiting from a short punt leading to a 7-yard scoring pass from Lynch to Tevin Jones.
Cincinnati answered on a 13-yard run by Luallen, a fullback who was running out of a wildcat formation. Part of the reason for Luallen being in that position was Kay was on the sidelines recovering from a blow to the midsection two plays earlier. Kay has suffered through a myriad of injuries this season.
''He got hit pretty hard,'' Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said. ''He got knocked around, but he's a tough kid. If we can get him 100 percent, there's no telling how good he can be.''
Cincinnati was able to take a 14-7 lead at halftime capitalizing on a Memphis fumble in Tiger territory. Memphis running back Marquis Warford gained 2 yards but fumbled. Edwards recovered at the Memphis 19.
On the next play, Abernathy scored on a run up the middle for the Cincinnati halftime lead.
Cincinnati allowed Memphis a mere 58 yards of offense in the first half, including 12 in the second quarter. Of those 12, only 1 was on the ground.
''We were kind of disappointed. We gave up too many point, obviously,'' Edwards said. ''We should have shut them out. That's what we go into every game thinking. We played an average game. We played better in the second half, but we still have to come out and do better.''
Both teams had significant drives in the third quarter - Cincinnati's a 69-yarder capped by a 2-yard run by Green's. Memphis' drive was 70 yards, the final 7 covered by a pass from Lynch to Hayes.