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The greatest team in Cincinnati football history began the 2009 season unranked. It then proceeded to go 12-0 during the regular season despite losing star quarterback Tony Pike to injury for three games and parts of two others midway through the season. The Bearcats didn’t skip a beat under backup quarterback Zach Collaros and rose to No. 3 in the BCS Standings by the end of the season, narrowly missing a chance to play for the national championship. Only days after the Bearcats staged a stirring comeback to beat Pittsburgh for the Big East title, head coach Brian Kelly left for Notre Dame, setting them up for a jarring defeat against Florida in the Sugar Bowl. This is the story of that remarkable season seen through the eyes of Kelly and his players, who lifted Cincinnati to a level of national prominence in college football that it had never before experienced. The season ended in disappointment and bitterness but that didn’t overshadow what the Bearcats accomplished as they lifted up a city that was thrilled to climb aboard for the wild ride.

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