No. 4 Cincinnati rolls by No. 21 Houston, awaits playoff fate
The No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats likely secured their place in history with a 35-20 win against visiting No. 21 Houston in the American Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday.
Cincinnati (13-0) will learn Sunday if it is the first school outside a Power Five conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC) to be selected for the College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014.
Bearcats coach Luke Fickell was asked after the game why his team deserved to reach the final four, as determined by the CFP selection committee.
“Because they’ve done everything they’ve been asked to do,” he said. “We weren’t worried about that. We wanted to win a championship.
“I kept telling them if you take care of the stuff on the field, everything else will take care of itself. This is a really good football team that deserves everything.”
Desmond Ridder, who finished his career 26-0 at home as a starter, threw for three touchdowns and Jerome Ford had scoring runs of 79 and 42 yards.
Leading 14-13 at the half, the Bearcats scored 21 unanswered points in a 4:24 stretch of the third quarter against the Cougars (11-2). The spree started with scores 58 seconds apart to make it 28-13.
First, Ridder had an 8-yard TD to Leonard Taylor. The Bearcats got the ball back on Houston’s first snap when Joel Dublanko intercepted Clayton Thune and returned it nine yards to the Cougars’ 23.
One play later, Alec Pierce caught a 21-yard TD. Ford rushed for a 42-yard score to make it 35-13 at the 7:38 mark.
The game started well for Houston with a field goal on its first drive.
Ridder then threw a 25-yard TD to Tyler Scott to complete an 82-yard drive. The Cougars went 74 yards and assumed a 10-7 lead on a Tune-to-Nathaniel Dell strike of 16 yards.
But on Cincinnati’s next play from scrimmage after going down by three again, Ford bolted 79 yards for a 14-10 lead.
Houston coach Dan Holgorsen said after the game he was impressed with the Bearcats.
“I honestly saw a championship team in Cincinnati,” Holgorsen said. “I’m proud of our kids. We gave it everything we could this week. We were ready to play.
“This is a very determined Cincinnati team that’s about to make history for a Group of Five school.”
Ford ran for 187 yards on 18 carries for Cincinnati and Ridder was 11-for-17 passing for 190 yards.
Tune completed 17 of 26 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns for Houston, but he had one pass intercepted and was sacked eight times.
A 21-16 win by No. 9 Baylor against No. 5 Oklahoma State in the Big 12 championship earlier in the day bodes well for Cincinnati being selected for the CFP. The Bearcats defeated No. 6 Notre Dame 24-13 in October — at Notre Dame, no less.
–Field Level Media