Syracuse struggled to do much to contain Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead in a 30-13 loss at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.
Pead gained 244 all-purpose yards, including a 69-yard reception with 9:13 left in the game to put the game out of reach. It was one of two touchdowns for the senior back, and kept the Bearcats in the hunt for the Big East title.
“I was in the zone a little bit,” Pead said. “I felt that I had to embrace it. With everything going on, it was a big game, and with a rookie quarterback, I had to be a veteran.”
The Bearcats had lost their last two games, in part because senior quarterback Zach Collaros broke his ankle, and will be out the rest of the year. His backup, Munchie Legaux, struggled in a 20-3 loss to Rutgers last week, a game in which the Bearcats totaled just 225 total yards.
Against Syracuse, the Bearcats leaned on Pead, who came into the game with 962 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground, and 193 receiving yards.
He rewarded their faith in him.
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Pead busted a 24-yard touchdown run to give the Beatcats a 17-6 lead. Pead also returned two punts for a combined 54 yards.
“I can’t say enough about the performance by number 23, Isaiah Pead,” Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones said. “We talked about being able to distribute the ball and he stepped up like big-time players do.”
It came at the expense of the SU defense, which gave up more than 27 points for the fourth straight game.
“(Pead) is probably one of the best backs in the Big East,” SU linebacker Dan Vaughan said. “They just wanted to get him the ball. They got him on screens out in space and they ran him up the middle too. He is a slick back and was just making plays out there.”
When Pead wasn’t running all over the Orange, Cincinnati wildcat quarterback Jordan Luallen was. Luallen gained 77 yards on eight attempts, with a 48-yard run in the third quarter. That helped set up a 22-yard field goal to put the Beatcats up 20-6.
For the game, the Beatcats totaled 189 yards on the ground.
“They outrushed us,” Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. “They out-physicaled us. They made plays; I thought their running back did a heck of a job.”
Brad Bierman contributed to this article with reporting from Syracuse.