CINCINNATI — Hayden Moore was told by first-year Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell that he won the quarterback job over Ross Trail last week.
Moore responded with touchdown passes to Thomas Geddis, Kahill Lewis and Tyler Cogswell in the Beacats’ 26-14 win Thursday night over the Austin Peay Governors in the season opener for both teams.
The Bearcats offense started slowly and didn’t score until the 10:54 mark in the second quarter.
“It felt similar to last year’s game against Tennessee-Martin,” Moore said in referring to the 2016 opener. “I definitely had a slow start. I missed some throws, but as we settled down and I started making some easy throws, everybody started to do their job. That’s what Coach always talks about: If everybody does their job we’ll be good.”
Fickell came to Cincinnati after 18 years at Ohio State, serving as defensive coordinator for the bulk of his career there.
“It’s been a while coming for these guys, for myself,” Fickell said. “Seven-and-a-half, eight months of kind of grinding through a lot of different things and emphasizing the journey that we’ve been on. To have some ups and downs, but ultimately to get the win.”
Fickell knows what power-conference football is like but recognizes the challenges are similar at any level.
“It’s not easy, winning,” Fickell said. “I don’t care what level, I don’t care who you’re playing. It’s not. To come away with a win, to do the things we did, to have the adversity. I think that’s probably, as we look back and go to evaluate this night, to see what we’re really made of is I think what we’re really gonna grow from.”
The Bearcats’ other touchdown came on a 3-yard run by Mike Boone in the fourth quarter after the Governors had cut Cincinnati’s lead to six.
Cincinnati’s defense made some huge plays to keep the Governors from a chance at a win on the road.
Austin Peay’s JaVaughn Craig threw a 19-yard scoring pass to Kentel Williams in the first quarter but was intercepted by defensive tackle Bryan White in the last minute of the first half. Jeremiah Oatsvall took over the Governors offense in the second half and led a 13-play, 66-yard scoring drive capped by Josh Alexander’s 11-yard run to get the visitors within 20-14 with under 12 minutes left in the game.
The Governors turned the ball over on downs on the Bearcats 7 with 1:32 to play.
“This is as resilient a group as I’ve ever been around. They fight. I felt all week long that we had a chance to come out and compete,” Austin Peay coach Will Healy said. “If we could get to a one-score game in the fourth quarter, that’s exactly what we wanted and where we expected to be. They made a big stop there on fourth down. We turned the ball over a couple times. They made big plays when they had to and we didn’t.”
Austin Peay had 313 yards offense to the Bearcats’ 249.
The Bearcats won for the first time since Oct. 22, a 31-19 win over East Carolina. The Bearcats were 1-7 down the stretch of a 4-8 season under Tommy Tuberville.
Austin Peay fell to 0-6 all-time against Cincinnati, and dropped its 28th game in a row. The Governors last victory came against Murray State, 20-13, on Oct. 18, 2014.
Austin Peay: The last time Austin Peay played the Bearcats, they lost by a 72-10 margin in 2011. … The Governors totaled 4,042 yards last season but allowed 5,573. Thursday, they held Cincinnati to 248 yards, 80 yards fewer than in any game in 2016.
Cincinnati: Andrew Ganz missed a 26-yard field goal and an extra point. Ganz is a two-time, all-conference selection. Ganz missed all but two games with a leg injury last season. … Moore was one of three Bearcats quarterbacks to start games in 2016. He started seven, Ross Trail two and the departed Gunner Kiel three. The Bearcats hope Moore can offer continuity.
Austin Peay: The Governors play the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks on Sept. 9, fewer than 40-miles from the site of their season opener. This is the third straight season the Governors will play two FBS opponents and the first time since 2013 they play them in back-to-back weeks. It will be their first meeting with the Redhawks.
Cincinnati: Fickell has a long history with the University of Michigan as a player and coach for Ohio State. Fickell’s team will meet Michigan in Ann Arbor on Sept. 7 in the first meeting between the teams