SYRACUSE, N.Y.(AP) Ben Mauk threw for a career-high 431 yards and four touchdowns, three to Marcus Barnett, and No. 24 Cincinnati beat Syracuse 52-31 on Saturday night.
The victory gave the Bearcats (9-3, 4-3 Big East) their first nine-win season since the 1953 team went 9-1 and more than likely assured them of finishing the regular season ranked for the first time in school history.
The loss gave Syracuse (2-10, 1-6) its second 10-loss season in Greg Robinson's three years as head coach. They are the only two double-digit loss seasons in school history.
It was an emotional game for Mauk, who badly broke the humerus in his throwing arm above the elbow trying to recover a fumble in the season opener a year ago against Syracuse when he was the starting quarterback at Wake Forest.
Mauk, who transferred to Cincinnati as a graduate student, made it seem like just another game, whether passing from the pocket or on the run. He was 29-for-42 and capped a memorable night with a 13-yard scoring run with just over a minute to play. The Bearcats have scored a school-record 441 points, surpassing the 409 they scored in 2002.
The Orange had just one win in six home games and had been pounded in their five losses by an average of 43-14. This time, with Robinson's job apparently on the line, they didn't fold as sophomore quarterback Andrew Robinson kept up with Mauk for a while.
Andrew Robinson finished 29-for-47 for 419 yards and three TDs against a team that had allowed just 10 touchdown passes all season, but he was sacked 11 times.
Mike Williams had nine catches for 160 yards and his 10th touchdown of the season. Williams extended his school record to nine games with at least one touchdown reception when he made a leaping 10-yard catch in the right corner of the end zone late in the second quarter to move the Orange within 28-17.
When Andrew Robinson hit Taj Smith for a 78-yard touchdown on a fly pattern down the left side on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, the Orange were down 28-24.
Four plays later, Mauk hit Barnett for an 18-yard score. It was Barnett's 13th TD catch of the season, a Cincinnati record.
Robinson hit Jawad Nesheiwat for a 3-yard touchdown pass to pull the Orange within 35-31 midway through the third as Syracuse tried to pull off another upset of a ranked team. The Orange beat No. 18 Louisville 38-35 on the road in mid-September, but the Bearcats secured a tough win by doing what they do best.
Cincinnati entered the game leading the nation with 38 forced turnovers, and No. 39 proved huge. After the Bearcats were forced to punt for only the third time in the game, linebacker Corey Smith sacked Robinson, forcing a fumble, and defensive end Angelo Craig scooped up the bouncing ball in full stride and ran it in from the 16 to boost the Cincinnati lead to 42-31 with 6:13 left in the third.
Cincinnati's quick-strike offense was in full display on this night. The Bearcats needed only 19 plays and 5:12 to score its first-half points.
Mauk drove the Bearcats 71 yards in only five plays, hitting Barnett for 8 yards in the right corner of the end zone to make it 21-10 in the second quarter. After Syracuse went three-and-out, Cincinnati went 53 yards in just three plays, capped by Earnest Jackson's leaping 20-yard TD catch for a 28-10 lead with 3:10 left in the haflf.
Syracuse's Max Suter set an NCAA record for kick return yards in a season with 1,299. Kevin Robinson had 1,260 for Utah State.