CINCINNATI - So much for unbeaten teams in the Big East.
Ben Mauk threw for three touchdowns and ran for another yesterday, leading Cincinnati to a 27-3 victory over No. 16 Connecticut that further scrambled the conference race.
Under heavy pressure throughout the game, Mauk made the two decisive plays in the second half. He ran 11 yards for a touchdown on a draw play, then connected with Dominick Goodman on a 37-yard touchdown pass, keeping Cincinnati (8-2, 3-2) in a crowd of teams vying for the league title.
UConn (8-2, 4-1) was the last unbeaten team in the Big East, grinding out wins with a methodical, mistake-free approach. The Huskies had only 10 turnovers coming into the game, a big reason they were off to the best start in their 109-year football history.
An interception set this one on course early.
Defensive end Anthony Hoke tipped one of Tyler Lorenzen's passes to teammate Adam Hoppel, who returned the interception to the 6-yard line. Mauk's pass to Charley Howard made it 13-0 in the first quarter, setting the tone.
The Bearcats' defense got the better of a matchup of opposites: UConn avoids penalties and rarely makes a mistake, while Cincinnati is the Big East's leader in piling up penalties and forcing turnovers.
Hoppel's first career interception was the Bearcats' 22d this season. They've gotten 35 turnovers in all, setting up 120 points.
Hoke led the way, setting up the tipped interception and sacking Lorenzen three times. The Huskies had only one drive in the first three quarters, and had to settle for Tony Ciaravino's 23-yard field goal after a first and goal from the 7-yard line.
Both quarterbacks were under steady pressure. Lorenzen completed 18 of 37 passes for 183 yards with only his fifth interception of the season. Mauk was 21 of 33 for 276 yards, including touchdown passes of 1 and 6 yards in the first quarter.
Mauk's two most important plays came off fakes.
He pump-faked and took off for an 11-yard touchdown run that made it 20-3 midway through the third quarter. He put the game out of reach by faking a handoff and throwing the 37-yard touchdown pass to Goodman, who got behind the coverage.
Goodman finished with eight catches for 127 yards.
Cincinnati's eight regular-season wins are its most since 1993. The Bearcats finish the season against No. 6 West Virginia (8-1, 3-1) and at Syracuse (2-8, 1-4). UConn finishes at home against Syracuse and then at West Virginia.