CINCINNATI — Dustin Grutza "missed" Cincinnati's record season last year, but the former Kentucky prep star returned in a big way as Cincinnati's star quarterback.
Grutza, after two years as starter, gave way to Ben Mauk who led the Bearcats to 10 victories and a bowl win in 2007.
After Mauk made several unsuccessful pleas to the NCAA for a sixth year, Grutza was back under center, and he led the Bearcats to a 40-7 victory over Eastern Kentucky in the season opener Thursday night.
Grutza passed for a career high of 296 yards on 21 completions in 28 throws.
Never miss a local story.
His performance spoiled the head coaching debut of Eastern's Dean Hood, who came to EKU after serving as defensive coordinator at Wake Forest.
Grutza, from Maysville and Mason County High School, had 121 passing yards in the first quarter when he was 10-for-14.
Grutza had a touchdown pass, 15 yards to Mardy Gilyard, and he was on the way to another score when the quarter ended.
Grutza, a senior, found Dominick Goodman for a 21-yard touchdown five plays into the period.
A 26-yard completion started a short (34-yard) scoring drive ending with John Goebel's 1-yard run.
Late in the period, after the Bearcats recovered an EKU fumble, Grutza hooked up with Gilyard for a 47-yard score. Gilyard had several steps on his closest defender, and Cincinnati led 26-0 with 1:49 left in the half.
At intermission, Grutza had 226 air yards on 15 of 20 throws and three touchdowns.
Cincinnati had an edge of 339 to 84 total yards on the visiting Colonels and an advantage of 15 to four in first downs.
Eastern, the defending Ohio Valley Conference champions, got into Bearcat territory twice in the first half.
The first drive ended with a punt from the Cincinnati 39.
The second ended with a missed field goal on a 4th-and-1 call from the UC 23.
The Colonels opened the drive after a 51-yard kickoff return by Jeremy Caldwell.
Eastern managed a first down and reached the UC 24, but the drive stalled.
The Bearcats opened the second half with a 78-yard scoring drive that required 20 plays and more than nine minutes.
The home team twice converted on fourth-down calls, including a 9-yard catch by Goodman, who dove the final 3 yards for the first down.
Grutza ended his return as starter by running the final 2 yards for a 33-0 lead.
Eastern responded with an 80-yard drive in two plays, a 19-yard completion from Allan Holland to Cody Watts and a 61-yard connection to the sophomore receiver.
Holland finished with 12 completions on 17 passes for 141 yards.
Cincinnati piled up 557 total yards to Eastern's 195.