When the calendar flips to November, Cincinnati tends to play its best football.
Especially under coach Luke Fickell.
The Bearcats (8-2, 5-1 American Athletic Conference) improved to 18-4 in November under Fickell with a 27-25 win over East Carolina last Saturday.
Cincinnati, No. 25 in the College Football Playoff rankings, will look to remain in strong contention to reach the AAC championship game when it faces Temple (3-7, 1-5) on Saturday in Philadelphia.
“We’ve trained and we’ve done all there is to get to November,” Fickell said. “November really matters.”
After a frustrating 25-21 loss to UCF on Oct. 29, the Bearcats have beaten Navy and East Carolina to remain in the race for the AAC title. Cincinnati is tied with UCF and Tulane for first place in the conference.
“We have always wanted to play for championships,” Fickell said.
It was far from a perfect victory over the Pirates on Friday, but Cincinnati did enough to earn its 32nd straight home win.
Ben Bryant was 14-of-30 passing for 244 yards and two touchdowns and Tyler Scott had seven catches for 140 yards and one score. Jadon Thompson contributed a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“Somehow, someway, maturity steps up,” Fickell said. “We make plays and we finish the ballgame.”
The task now is to slow arguably the hottest quarterback in the conference in Owls freshman E.J. Warner.
Temple received a record-setting performance from Warner but couldn’t overcome Houston’s powerful offense in a 43-36 loss last weekend.
Warner, the son of Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, set a program record with 486 passing yards to go with three touchdown passes. He also set the record for passes completed (42).
Warner became the sixth quarterback in program history to throw for at least 2,000 yards in a season.
“The composure, the confidence level he has is very special,” Temple coach Stan Drayton said. “The way he’s spreading the ball around shows the knowledge he has for the whole system. I’m excited for his ceiling of growth and improvement. … He’s exciting to be around.”
The Owls have scored 90 points in two games this month, including a 54-28 win over South Florida on Nov. 5.
“The scary thing about them is they’re playing their best ball in November, and that’s what we pride ourselves on,” Bearcats wide receiver Tre Tucker told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Cincinnati has won the last two meetings, including a 52-3 thumping of the Owls last season. The Bearcats’ last trip to Philadelphia ended with a 24-17 overtime loss to Temple in 2018.
Tucker said the Bearcats are not looking ahead to their Nov. 25 game against No. 21 Tulane.
“Temple is always a tough place to play and they’re always a tough team,” Tucker said. “So I think everyone’s going to be on high alert. Obviously, we know what we’ve got next week, but this week is just as important, just because of how they play and who they are. So everyone’s going to make sure they’re focused and have a good week of practice.”
–Field Level Media