CINCINNATI (AP) – Gunner Kiel made his first start of the season and led Cincinnati to its first American Athletic Conference win, 31-19 over East Carolina on Saturday night.
Kiel completed 23 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns. He was third on the depth chart at the start of the season behind Hayden Moore and Ross Trail.
Cincinnati (4-3, 1-3) came up with two key defensive stops in the fourth quarter to snap a two-game skid. The Bearcats recovered a fumble by Anthony Scott on their 16 with 6:56 left, then stopped James Summers for no gain on a fourth-and-1 with 4:36 remaining.
East Carolina (2-5, 0-3) scored first on a 26-yard field goal by Davis Plowman but Kiel threw his first touchdown pass since November 28, 2015, also against ECU, with a 14-yard strike to DJ Dowdy late in the first quarter. Kiel added an 18 yarder to Kahlil Lewis with 28 seconds left in the first half.
Philip Nelson completed a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Williams on the Pirates’ first possession of the second half.
After the teams traded field goals, Kiel and Lewis connected on two straight passes of 47 and 9 yards – the latter for a touchdown – late in the third quarter. They hooked up again on a 32-yard touchdown pass to cap the scoring. Lewis had a career-high 11 receptions for three touchdowns.
East Carolina – Pirates wide receiver Zay Jones had 11 catches. Jones has at least one catch in 42 straight games, tying Zach Pascal for the third longest streak among active receivers. The senior came into the game leading the FBS with 14 receptions per game.
Cincinnati -Shaq Washington, Cincinnati’s career receptions leader, had his name added to the ring of honor. Washington had 240 career receptions.Kiel had the 10th 300-yard game of his career and ninth with three of more touchdowns.
East Carolina – The Pirates host Connecticut on October 29. It will be the third meeting between them, all since becoming members of the American Athletic Conference. The Pirates won 31-21 last season.
Cincinnati – The Bearcats travel to Temple on October 29. Temple owns a 10-7-1 advantage over Cincinnati after ending a five-game, series losing streak with a 34-26 win.