Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sports

Cincy opens Big East season by pounding Pitt

CINCINNATI — George Winn ran for two touchdowns, including a 58-yarder on Cincinnati's first play of the game, and the Bearcats took advantage of Pittsburgh mistakes for a 34-10 victory Thursday night.

It was the start of the Big East's final season before a major overhaul. West Virginia has already left for the Big 12, and Pitt and Syracuse will head to the ACC after the season. Next year, the conference expands to the South and West.

Cincinnati (1-0) won four of the last five games in the Ohio River rivalry, the latest with a reconstituted offense featuring seven new starters.

Quarterback Munchie Legaux, who went 2-1 as an injury fill-in last season, showed off his all-around skills. He completed 14 of 28 for 205 yards, including a pair of short throws that running back Ralph David Abernathy IV turned into touchdowns. Legaux also ran six times for a game-high 117 yards.

Pitt (0-2) had another sloppy game five days after a 31-17 loss to Youngstown State. The Panthers had a touchdown wiped out by penalty, and Tino Sunseri threw an interception in the end zone and held the ball too long on the final play of the first half, letting the clock run out with the ball at the 2-yard line.

Ray Graham, who returned this season after reconstructive knee surgery, had a 50-yard run that set up a Pittsburgh field goal. Graham carried 19 times for 103 yards.

Freshman running back Rushel Shell made his debut and carried eight times for 31 yards. Shell, who set a Pennsylvania high school rushing record, was one of six players suspended for Pitt's opener.

Winn took the handoff on Cincinnati's first play from scrimmage and went 58 yards untouched down the middle of the field for a touchdown.

Five plays later, Walter Stewart stripped Sunseri as he dropped to pass, turning the ball over at the Pitt 38. Legaux threw a swing pass to Abernathy, who went 15 yards down the sideline for a 14-0 lead.

The Bearcats are trying to turn Abernathy into their playmaker, replacing running back Isaiah Pead. The sophomore also turned a short catch into a 12-yard touchdown that completed a 99-yard drive in the fourth quarter.

Big east name change? The Big East is taking steps to "tweak" its name now that it includes schools from California, Idaho, Texas, Tennessee and Florida, according to Joe Bailey, the conference's former interim commissioner.

The Big East has commissioned a study to consider alternative names, Bailey said at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit in New York. He wouldn't say when the names would be presented to conference presidents for their consideration.

"The unintended consequences of adding new schools is that all of a sudden the Big East is a national conference," Bailey said. "It extends to four time zones in major markets. In one sense, it almost represents the United States in that diversity."

Arkansas: Fullback Kiero Small is expected to have surgery for a foot injury sustained Wednesday in a noncontact drill at practice. It's unclear how long he will be out. … Coach John L. Smith filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition for debts he incurred through real estate investments in Kentucky.

Oregon drug testing: The university is implementing random drug testing of all its athletes, following a media report this year that estimated from 40 to 60 percent of the football team smoked marijuana. Oregon's previous drug policy allowed for testing when there was reasonable suspicion. A recent decision by the general counsel gives temporary permission for random testing effective this month. The policy faces a public hearing next month.

Basketball: Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie was discharged from the hospital after a six-day stay amid an investigation into alleged player mistreatment. University Medical Center spokesman Eric Finley said Gillispie left the hospital after 3 p.m. Thursday. Messages were left seeking comment from Gillispie and athletic director Kirby Hocutt. Gillispie is entering his second year as Red Raiders coach.

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