EAST HARTFORD, Connecticut — Gunner Kiel passed for 161 yards and three touchdowns and Cincinnati's defense held Connecticut to 129 total yards in a 41-0 shutout on Saturday night.
Cincinnati (7-3, 5-1 American) remained in the hunt for the conference championship, a half-game behind first-place Memphis (6-1) and tied with Central Florida (5-1).
Cincinnati has two games left including next week at Temple.
After Kiel's touchdown pass to Johnny Holton early in the third quarter gave the Bearcats a 34-0 lead, Kiel gave way to backup Munchie Legaux. Rob Moore rushed for 108 yards and Mike Boone ran for 52 yards and a touchdown. Jeff Luc had 10 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for Cincinnati.
UConn's offensive output was its lowest of the season. It was the first time UConn (2-8, 1-5) was shut out at home since Navy in 1978. Tim Boyle was 13 of 21 for 70 yards in his first start of the season.
"Best we've played on defense," Cincinnati coach Tommy Tubberville said. "When you get a shutout in this day and age, I don't care how the other team played, hard to get a shutout."
Cincinnati took control early and, after an opening-drive interception by Kiel in the end zone, played flawlessly the rest of the half.
Kiel rebounded to toss a 6-yard pass to Nate Cole for a 7-0 lead on the second drive of the game. The Bearcats piled up 151 yards in the opening quarter to Connecticut's 15.
Cincinnati took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter on Mike Boone's 3-yard rush from a direct snap.
Jeff Luc strip-sacked Tim Boyle and recovered the fumble for Cincinnati at the UConn 4. The Bearkats settled for Andrew Gantz's 32-yard field goal another field goal for a 20-0 lead.
Payne intercepted Chandler Whitmer's pass at the UConn 25, and Kiel found Jake Golic for a 10-yard touchdown pass in the waning seconds of the first half for a 27-0 halftime lead.
UConn committed three turnovers leading to 17 points.
"Three turnovers that all produced points," UConn head coach Bob Diaco said. "Cincinnati averages 40 points a game anyway, and now they are playing on half a field with extra possessions? You got no chance."
Cincinnati had a 248-9 edge in offense, forced two turnovers and held a 15-3 edge on first downs in the first half.
Cincinnati gave up 50, 41 and 55 in losses to Ohio State, Memphis and Miami, but played its finest game of the season on Saturday night.
"We didn't panic, our front seven has got so much better and were are getting off blocks better and tackling better," Tubberville said. "First five weeks, we missed more tackles and guys got more yards after contact than I've ever seen."