CINCINNATI — Gunner Kiel’s football career was given new life 2 1/2 weeks ago when he regained his starting job as the University of Cincinnati quarterback.

The senior from Columbus East took advantage of his second chance by throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-19 win against East Carolina. But the past two weeks, Kiel has taken a little bit of a step back.

After throwing for 119 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-13 loss at Temple, Kiel threw for 199 yards but no touchdowns and his first interception of the season in Saturday’s 20-3 home loss to BYU.

“He didn’t play great today or last week, but he had a big heavy backpack on his back,” Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said. “He’s had to try to carry the load.”

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Kiel wasn’t talking to the media after Saturday’s loss dropped the Bearcats to 4-5 with three games left in the regular season. They must now win two of their final three to become bowl eligible.

The 2011 Mr. Football, Kiel completed 233 of 399 passes and a school-record 31 touchdowns as a sophomore. Last season, he threw for 2,777 yards and 19 scores.

But prior to this season, Tuberville opened up the quarterback competition between Kiel, sophomore Hayden Moore and redshirt-freshman Ross Trail. Moore won the job to open the season, with Trail being the backup. Kiel was No. 3 on the depth chart.

But with Cincinnati at 3-3 going into a bye week, Tuberville reopened the competition, and Kiel won his old job back. Tuberville said there’s not a lot of difference in the three quarterbacks.

“(Kiel is) playing because he’s got more leadership qualities,” Tuberville said. “The players listen to him. We went to him, and Gunner steps up. He’s been there and done that. We’re just looking at the leaders on offense to get after some of the younger guys, whether it’s in practice, whether it’s in a meeting or the locker room, and Gunner’s done a good job of that.”

Tuberville praised the way Kiel handled his demotion and his subsequent promotion.

“I think he’s done well with the situation he was thrown into,” Tuberville said. “I’ve been proud of him with how he’s handled the whole situation all year long.”

Gunner Kiel

Name: Gunner Kiel

High school: Columbus East

College: Cincinnati

Year: Senior

Position: Quarterback

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 225 pounds

Season stats: 60 for 110 for 713 yards passing, with six touchdowns and one interception

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.