‘Nothing’s done’: No. 2 Cincinnati, unbeaten so far, faces Navy
Cincinnati rose to No. 2 in The Associated Press poll, the highest ranking in program history, following its 56-21 victory over UCF last Saturday.
Senior quarterback Desmond Ridder said he asked his coaches after Sunday night’s practice how they felt about that latest achievement.
“They kind of stopped me and were like, ‘Hey, nothing changed. The job’s not finished. Nothing’s done,'” Ridder said. “I was like, ‘OK. As long as you guys are there, we can be there, too.’ “
So this Saturday’s visit to Annapolis, Md., is little more than the next business trip for Cincinnati (6-0, 2-0) as the Bearcats prepare to face Navy (1-5, 1-3) in an American Athletic Conference game.
“There’s no one who’s out here jumping around in their boots that we’re No. 2 or that’ll go out on the weekend wearing a No. 2 chain or something,” Ridder added with a grin.
The long-term goal is still unspoken this early in the season: The Bearcats are shooting to become the first Group of Five team to earn a College Football Playoff berth, and they’ll likely need to stay perfect to make it.
Last season’s 8-0 regular-season record and then a win in the AAC title game weren’t enough for the Bearcats to crack the field of four, but their 2021 resume so far looks stronger thanks to a 24-13 road win over then-No. 9 Notre Dame on Oct. 2.
The last time Cincinnati visited Navy was in 2017, Luke Fickell’s first year coaching the program. The Midshipmen ran for 569 yards that day and won 42-32.
“That’s something you never forget,” Fickell said. “The triple option stuff’s always gonna be unique. I think every year, you’ve got to have some wrinkles and you’ve got to be sound in what you’re doing. But I think it’s always, as soon as you think you’ve got something a little bit figured out, it can get really ugly really quick.”
The Bearcats learned from their mistakes and overwhelmed Navy 42-0 in 2018. The teams haven’t met since.
Defense has become Cincinnati’s calling card as the program has established a national profile. The Bearcats rank third in the nation in scoring defense (13.7 ppg), 14th in total defense (296.7 ypg) and 12th in passing defense (172.2 ypg).
Offensively, Ridder has completed 64.3 percent of his passes, with 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions, but running back Jerome Ford is becoming the team’s star. He scored four touchdowns against UCF in the first half alone, including one for 79 yards, and has run for 338 yards in Cincinnati’s past two games.
That’s a lot for the Midshipmen to prep for after its latest loss last Thursday. The defense gave up four touchdowns on Memphis’ first five drives in a 35-17 defeat.
Navy made the most of its first possession against Memphis, piecing together a methodical, 21-play touchdown drive that lasted 11:50. The Midshipmen scored only 10 points the rest of the day.
“We’ve been having a lot of drives in the teens,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We had some of those drives (Week 1 against) Marshall, but we didn’t capitalize, we didn’t finish. We just got to continue to finish. But sometimes when you have those long, sustained drives, which are great, but also it forces you to execute every time, too.”
–Field Level Media