Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell noticed his Bearcats displayed an increased energy level against UFC that was missing in their first three games.
The Bearcats pulled off their biggest win in years, a 27-24 victory over then-No. 18 UCF last Friday night at Nippert Stadium. The loud, capacity crowd was helpful, and the win gave them the inside track in the American Athletic East.
"There was a different energy, even on our sideline," Fickell said. "I don't know why — because it's a big game, because we're playing well — but there was something a little bit different."
The impressive win over the two-time AAC champs moved Cincinnati (4-1, 1-0) back into the rankings for the first time this season, checking in at No. 25. The Friday game gave them extra time to enjoy their big moment. Now it's off to Houston (2-3, 0-1) to face a rebuilding team going through a change at quarterback.
The Cougars switched to sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune in their last game, a 46-25 loss at North Texas. He was 16 of 20 for 124 yards and a touchdown, and he ran for 100 yards. Tune didn't have a turnover and overcame a sore right hamstring.
"I'm expecting him to continue to get better," Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. "I thought it was a really good opening start for him. His mindset has been really good, and I think he's going to be pretty fired up to play the home game here Saturday."
Some things to watch at TDECU Stadium:
The Cougars are playing their first game in 35 days at TDECU Stadium and only their second this season. They had a bye after their win at North Texas on Sept. 28. They've lost games against Oklahoma, Washington State and Tulane. The Cougars won their other home game, 37-17 over Prairie View A&M.
TUNE VS. BEARCAT'S SECONDARY
Cincinnati picked off UCF's Dillon Gabriel three times, returning one of the interceptions for a touchdown, as the defense led the way. Tune started the final two games last season and moved back into the role when D'Eriq King decided to redshirt. Tune avoided turnovers against North Texas, but will be facing one of the AAC's top defenses Saturday. Also, he's missing second-leading receiver Keith Corbin, who also has decided to take a redshirt season.
HELP ON RUN
With Tune easing into the starting role, the Cougars relied on senior running back Patrick Carr in their win at North Texas. He ran for three touchdowns and matched his career high with 139 yards rushing, including a 68-yard touchdown on the opening drive.
FULL SPEED AHEAD
Michael Warren II ran for 133 yards and had a key 60-yard run during the Bearcats' rally in the second half against UCF. He'll be facing a defense that's among the worst in the AAC at stopping the run, allowing 178.8 yards per game.
AGAINST THE BEST
The Cougars are 5-1 against ranked opponents at TDECU Stadium, which opened in 2014, knocking off then-No. 17 USF last season. The Cougars are 36-98-5 all-time against ranked teams.
AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this report.
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