Cincinnati Bearcats wide receiver Alec Pierce (12) catches a short pass in the second quarter of the NCAA football game between the Indiana Hoosiers and the Cincinnati Bearcats at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.

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Ben Bryant’s four TD passes propel Cincinnati over Indiana

Ben Bryant threw four touchdowns in a dominant first half and host Cincinnati rolled to a 45-24 victory over previously unbeaten Indiana on Saturday.

Bryant completed 24 of 40 passes for a career-best 354 yards. He threw three of his four TDs to Tyler Scott and also recorded his third 300-yard passing performance since joining Cincinnati as a transfer from Eastern Michigan after last season.

Scott finished with career highs of 10 receptions for 185 yards. Scott had a 75-yard TD in the first quarter before hauling in a 34-yard scoring pass and a 32-yard TD pass in a span of 4:01 when Cincinnati (3-1) scored three times in the final 4:33 before halftime.

The Bearcats won their third straight and got their second straight win over Indiana in the first meeting in Cincinnati between the schools since 1998.

Indiana’s Connor Bazelak, who began Saturday with the second-lowest completion rate (56.6) in the Big Ten, completed 31 of 66 passes and threw two TD along with two interceptions. He threw over 50 times for the third time in four games.

Indiana running back Shaun Shivers ran 19 times for 79 yards and had a pair of TDs, including a 47-yard rushing score early in the fourth quarter as the Hoosiers (3-1) tried to stage a fourth straight comeback.

After Bryon Threats intercepted Bazelak and returned it 28 yards, the Bearcats took a 3-0 lead on Ryan Coe’s 24-yard field goal with six minutes remaining in the first. Indiana got inside the red zone a little over four minutes later and tied it on a 27-yard field goal by Charles Campbell

Bryant found Scott for their first TD with one minute left in the first and connected with Tre Tucker for a 5-yard TD with about 12:36 minutes to go in the second for a 17-3 lead. Josh Henderson’s 19-yard TD got Indiana within 17-10 midway through the second but the Bearcats began dominating and took a 38-10 lead when Bazelak was sacked by Eric Phillips for an 11-yard loss, fumbled and it was recovered by Dominique Perry for a 14-yard TD with 22 seconds left in the half.

Shivers brought Indiana within 38-17 when he caught a 2-yard pass with 10:23 left in the third before getting his second TD 59 seconds into the fourth.

–Field Level Media

Indiana's Connor Bazelak (9) avoids the sack during the Indiana versus Western Kentucky football game at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 17, 2022.

Iu Wk Fb 2h Bazelak 1

At Cincinnati, resilient Indiana aims for 4-0 start

Indiana is among 33 unbeaten teams and needed three comebacks to keep its record unblemished.

Coming off a nightmarish 10-loss season, a quick start is exactly what Indiana needed but staying unbeaten may prove difficult Saturday when the Hoosiers visit Cincinnati for their final nonconference game.

“Our guys are excited about that,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said of facing a 2021 playoff team. “They do understand that. Our preparation has to reflect that. It’s on our team, the leaders of this team. Talk about guys in those roles right now and that leadership has to elevate itself this week as we continue to grow.”

Indiana (3-0) is seeking a 4-0 start for the second time in three seasons but those quick starts are sandwiched around a 2-10 campaign.

Indiana scored the game-winning touchdown with 23 seconds left to beat Illinois in its season opener, then overcame an early 10-point deficit to beat Idaho in Week 2. Last week, the Hoosiers erased an eight-point deficit, scoring the tying TD with 47 seconds left and kicking the game-winning 51-yard field goal in overtime for a 33-30 win over visiting Western Kentucky.

The rallies have forced Indiana to constantly use its passing game as Connor Bazelak completed 34 of 55 passes for 364 yards last week. His 56.6 percent completion rate is the second-lowest in the Big Ten.

Cincinnati (2-1) is averaging 41.7 points per game and its 17 touchdowns are the most in the AAC. After opening with a 31-24 loss at Arkansas, the Bearcats notched double-digit wins over Kennesaw State and Miami (Ohio).

The Bearcats followed up their 63-10 rout of Kennesaw State by overcoming a 10-point deficit for a 38-17 win over Miami. Ben Bryant threw 337 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Charles McClelland added 101 yards and two rushing TDs.

“We are figuring out what ‘us’ looks like,” Bearcats coach Luke Fickell said. “I think there’s a little bit more of a calm nature than last year.”

Indiana leads the all-time series 8-4-2. The schools are meeting in Cincinnati for the first time since 1998. Last season, the Bearcats intercepted Michael Pennix three times and overcame an early 14-point deficit for a 38-24 victory at Indiana.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) and cornerback Coby Bryant (7) react after cornerback Arquon Bush (not pictured) blocked a field goal by the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the second half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati CB Ahmad Gardner declares for NFL draft

Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner announced Tuesday he is declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior was a consensus All-American and helped the Bearcats reach the College Football Playoff this season.

“The last three years have been incredible and I’m proud of what I accomplished at the University of Cincinnati,” he wrote on social media. “I’m ready to take the next step and compete in the NFL. I will be forgoing my final year of eligibility and entering the 2022 NFL Draft.

“I’m a Bearcat for life.”

In more than 1,000 career snaps in coverage from 2019-21, Gardner never gave up a touchdown, according to Pro Football Focus. He finished his career with nine interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns.

“I talked things over with my family,” Gardner told Yahoo Sports. “My work at Cincinnati is done. I came in and did everything I was supposed to do. I listened to everything the coaches were telling me to do to get in a better position to take care of my family.”

Gardner is widely projected as a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The last Cincinnati player picked in the opening round was defensive lineman Bob Bell in 1971, going with the 21st overall pick to the Detroit Lions.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) runs with the ball in the 3rd quarter against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Cincinnati needs impressive win over SMU in CFP chase

No. 5 Cincinnati can clinch a spot in the American Athletic Conference championship game with a victory against visiting SMU on Saturday.

Of course, as far as the Bearcats (10-0, 6-0 AAC) are concerned, the Mustangs (8-2, 4-2) represent the next obstacle in a bigger pursuit: trying to become the first Group of Five program to earn a College Football Playoff berth since the arrangement began in 2014.

After SMU, the Bearcats end the regular season at East Carolina and could face No. 24 Houston in the conference title game on Dec. 4.

“We’ve got a really tough game this week. We’ve got a really tough game the following week,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said Tuesday. “If we’re fortunate enough to have a third one, we’ll have another really tough one that will give us every opportunity that we want, and I truly believe that.

“I know you’ve got to be in the realm to have any shot, and all we care about is we’re in the realm, and now we’ve got to take care of business.”

Cincinnati can’t afford a slip-up. Not being one of the Power 5 schools leaves the Bearcats needing to not only win but to do so impressively.

SMU looms as a challenge because its offense averages 41.6 points per game, sixth nationally. The Mustangs are led by quarterback Tanner Mordecai, who threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-28 win against UCF last week to end a two-game losing streak.

Those two losses — 44-37 to Houston and 28-25 to Memphis — were on the road, and the Mustangs will face another hostile environment for the Bearcats’ Senior Day.

“If you want to win a championship, you’ve got to play well on the road. I think that’s the deal,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. “There’s all these things you’ve got to do, and I think playing well on the road is one of them. If we want to try to keep our championship hopes alive, then we’ve got to go play well Saturday and win the game.

“Our guys are excited,” Dykes added. “They like challenges, and this is obviously a challenge, and it’s a good barometer for us to see where we’re at.”

Cincinnati’s 32 seniors to be honored include quarterback Desmond Ridder, who has a 41-5 record as a starter.

Last week, in a 45-28 win at South Florida, Ridder threw two touchdown passes. The second was the 79th of his career to break a tie with Bearcats quarterbacks coach Gino Guidugli for the most in school history.

The senior class is 41-6, and the fifth-year seniors are 45-14 with Ridder sporting a 24-0 record at Nippert Stadium.

“There’s some special people that have done some special things, and I don’t just mean win football games,” Fickell said. “I mean really kind of change the locker room and create an expectation, create a brotherhood and create a lot of amazing things.

“Now, they’ve got to be able to balance emotions. It’s a huge, huge game.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats running back Charles McClelland (0) runs with the ball in the second quarter against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

Desmond Ridder sets school TD mark as No. 5 Cincinnati moves to 10-0

Desmond Ridder set a program record for career touchdown passes as No. 5 Cincinnati held on for a 45-28 victory over South Florida in American Athletic Conference play Friday night in Tampa, Fla.

The Bearcats (10-0, 6-0 AAC) ran off 31 consecutive points starting late in the first quarter and continuing through the first series of the third quarter, and they rode that cushion to the end.

The Bulls (2-8, 1-5) got two rushing touchdowns from Jaren Mangham, and Jimmy Horn Jr. took a short pass from Timmy McClain 80 yards for a touchdown.

They got their final touchdown on McClain’s 2-yard scamper in the fourth quarter to close to within 38-28 before Cincinnati’s Ryan Montgomery closed out the scoring with a 55-yard touchdown run.

Even with leading rusher Jerome Ford out with a leg injury, the Bearcats amassed 506 total yards. Ridder had a season-high 31 completions — including one to himself off a deflection — in 39 attempts for a season-high 304 yards and two touchdowns to raise his career total to 79 touchdown tosses.

The Bulls managed to stay with the Bearcats through a first quarter that featured a weird sequence of turnovers on three consecutive series.

An exchange of fumbles was followed by a 61-yard interception return by Christian Williams that put the Bulls in business at Cincinnati’s 2-yard line. Mangham punched it in to put the hosts up 7-0.

Cincinnati countered with Montgomery’s 12-yard touchdown run and added scores on Ridder’s 13-yard run and a 1-yard shovel pass to Tre Tucker before Alex Bales closed out the half with a 27-yard field goal to put the Bearcats up 24-7 at the halftime break.

After managing only 39 yards in total offense in the first half, the Bulls accumulated 307 yards after intermission. But it was not enough to upend Ridder and the Bearcats.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the first half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Cincinnati staying focused on South Florida

Despite recent close calls, Cincinnati moved up a spot in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings and will occupy the No. 5 position when they take on struggling South Florida in an American Athletic Conference game Friday night in Tampa.

The Bearcats (9-0, 5-0 AAC) enter the game more than three-touchdown favorites over the Bulls (2-7, 1-4).

Last week’s win over Tulsa was the second by one score for the Bearcats in their last three games after their 56-21 rout of UCF on Oct. 16. The Bearcats escaped Navy 27-20 the next week, cruised past Tulane 31-12 on the strength of a 10-point fourth quarter, then kept Tulsa out of the end zone eight times inside the 12-yard line in the final two minutes for a 28-20 win.

Tulsa had three chances from Cincy’s 1-yard line in the final minute and couldn’t score, fumbling into the end zone on the final play.

“I think we learned some more from it,” Bearcats coach Luke Fickell said at his weekly media session. “I think our guys recognized the way everybody plays them and the way they’ve got to continue to push and fight and do whatever it’s going to take. We’ve got to keep fighting.”

Quarterback Desmond Ridder dismissed the notion that the CFP rankings and all the talk that goes with that is putting extra pressure on the Bearcats.

“I would say it’s fun,” Ridder said. “It’s fun to see our name as the University of Cincinnati and our program up there. I wouldn’t say it has added pressure or anything.

“Like coach Fickell says, all we care about is winning the conference championship. Once we do that, everything is going to take care of itself, so we’re just taking it game by game. It is a blessing, an opportunity to be involved and be part of that and bring the city and community along with us.”

Ridder is concerned with more direct things, such as the injury to leading rusher Jerome Ford (888 yards). Ford left last week’s game against Tulsa with an apparent leg injury, and his status for this week is unknown.

“I’m hoping he plays as much as everyone else does because he’s a great running back,” Ridder said.

Ridder is Cincinnati’s second-leading rusher with 214 yards. Ryan Montgomery has rushed for 174 yards.

USF has lost its last two games since ending a long conference losing streak with a 34-14 win over Temple on Oct. 23, but second-year coach Jeff Scott said he saw some good things in the 54-42 loss to Houston last week.

“I’m disappointed by the ending of the game and not being able to pull off what would have been a nice upset there,” he said, “but really encouraged by some of the things I see about this team.”

Scott is well-aware of the task his Bulls face in hosting the Bearcats.

“In order to pull off an upset like that,” he said, “you’ve got to be at your best for four quarters.”

–Field Level Media

The Cincinnati Bearcats football team faced off against the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes at Nippert Stadium on Nov. 6, 2021.

UC football vs Tulsa

No. 6 Cincinnati holds on to beat Tulsa

The No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats remained perfect on the season, but they didn’t help their case with the College Football Playoff committee with a 28-20 win over the visiting Tulsa Golden Hurricane in an American Athletic Conference game Saturday.

Cincinnati (9-0, 5-0) kept Tulsa out of the end zone on six consecutive plays late in the fourth quarter.

The Golden Hurricane (3-6, 2-3) were close to scoring again late, but Sam Crawford Jr. was stopped a yard short of a first down on a short catch at the Cincinnati 2-yard line with 1:14 remaining.

However, Bearcats QB Desmond Ridder fumbled the next snap under center and Tulsa recovered on the Cincinnati 3. The Hurricane tried four straight runs but couldn’t score. On fourth down, RB Steven Anderson lost the ball as he was crossing the goal line. Cincinnati recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback and knelt down to end the game.

Ridder threw for 274 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) for Cincinnati. Alec Pierce had five catches for 113 yards with a touchdown. RB Jerome Ford had just 24 yards rushing and a touchdown and left the game with a lower-leg injury in the first half.

Tulsa outrushed (297-116)) and outgained (446-390) the Bearcats. Both Shamari Brooks (25 carries for 132 yards) and Anthony Watkins (15-105) rushed for more than 100 yards. Davis Brinn completed 17 of 26 for 149 yards and a score.

Up just 14-12 at the break, the Bearcats needed just seven offensive plays to create a cushion in the third quarter. Ridder found Pierce with a 12-yard touchdown on the fourth play after halftime for a 21-12 lead.

After Tulsa was stuffed on fourth-and-short on its 44 on the next drive, Ridder lofted a 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Young just three plays later to expand the margin to 28-12.

The Hurricane got back into it with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Brinn to JuanCarlos Santana. Brin’s toss to Crawford on the 2-point conversion cut the margin to 28-20 with 8:10 remaining.

The Hurricane missed several chances to make it closer. Tulsa lost a fumble on the Cincinnati 4-yard line late in the third quarter. Tulsa kicker Zack Long missed a 50-yard field goal early in the fourth.

Cincinnati appeared on its way to a rout early. The Bearcats led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter after two sharp drives. Ridder scored on a 3-yard run for a 7-0 lead, and Ford made it 14-0 with 1:21 left in the first on a 1-yard plunge.

But Ford left the game with a leg injury early in the second quarter, and the game flipped. The Hurricane got on the board with Zack Long’s 35-yard field goal.

Brooks scored on a 8-yard run to finish a 75-yard drive, but Tulsa missed the PAT to pull to 14-9. Long’s 50-yard field goal — a career long — cut it to 14-12 with 10 seconds left in the half.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) runs against Tulane Green Wave linebacker Kevin Henry (33) during the first half at Yulman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Desmond Ridder leads No. 2 Cincinnati over Tulane

Desmond Ridder threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Cincinnati held off host Tulane 31-12 in an American Athletic Conference game Saturday afternoon in New Orleans.

Ridder completed 17 of 27 passes for 227 yards with one interception as the Bearcats (8-0, 4-0 AAC) endured their second consecutive sluggish performance. Their 27-20 victory at Navy a week earlier was their closest outcome of the season.

Josh Whyle caught two of the touchdown passes and Jerome Ford caught the third and also rushed for a score.

Tyjae Spears rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown to lead the Green Wave (1-7, 0-4), who lost their sixth straight game and fell to 0-4 this season against ranked opponents.

Tulane played without quarterbacks Michael Pratt and Justin Ibieta, who are both injured, and freshman Kai Horton managed just 79 yards on 7-of-16 passing with two interceptions.

The Bearcats converted a fourth-and-one on their way to Ridder’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Whyle that increased their lead to 21-12 at the end of the third quarter.

Cincinnati recovered a fumble at the Tulane 10, leading to Christian Lowery’s 27-yard field goal and a 24-12 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Ridder added a 26-yard touchdown pass to Ford to complete the scoring.

Cincinnati drove 99 yards in 16 plays, the last of which was a 16-yard touchdown pass from Ridder to Whyle. That gave the Bearcats a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Marvin Moody sacked Ridder for a safety and Spears ran 47 yards for a touchdown that gave the Green Wave a 9-7 lead.

Ridder and Whyle connected on a 28-yard pass and Ridder ran 37 yards, setting up Ford’s 3-yard touchdown run that put Cincinnati ahead 14-9.

The Bearcats had a chance to extend the lead in the final minute of the second quarter, but Ridder was intercepted by Macon Clark, who returned it 33 yards to midfield. Merek Glover kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired to cut Cincinnati’s lead to 14-12 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2021; Annapolis, Maryland, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats tight end Josh Whyle (81)  celebrates with  wide receiver Tre Tucker (7) after scoring a first quarter touchdown against the Navy Midshipmen  at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Cincinnati holds off Navy to remain unbeaten

No. 2 Cincinnati overcame a rocky first half and held off a late rally from host Navy to remain undefeated, winning 27-20 on Saturday in an American Athletic Conference contest in Annapolis, Md.

Jerome Ford rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and Desmond Ridder connected with tight end Josh Whyle for a pair of touchdowns for the Bearcats (7-0, 3-0 AAC).

Tai Lavatai completed 11 of 15 passes for 116 yards and rushed for two scores and fullback Isaac Ruoss ran for a team-high 80 yards on 19 carries for the Midshipmen (1-6, 1-4).

Down by 14 late in the fourth quarter, Navy engineered a 16-play, 90-yard drive aided by two Cincinnati penalties: roughing the passer on a would-be interception and pass interference at the 1-yard line.

Lavatai punched in his second TD run of the day with 50 seconds left and the Midshipmen recovered their onside kick, but their last-ditch effort to tie the game fell short when Cincinnati cornerback Arquon Bush intercepted Lavatai.

It took until the final play before halftime for the Bearcats to grab their first lead. Cincinnati hurt itself with 11 penalties for 93 yards, twice jumping offsides before Navy fourth-and-short attempts.

The Midshipmen used their second possession of the game effectively, keeping Cincinnati’s offense on ice by running 13 plays and 7:12 of game time. A 19-yard wide receiver reverse to Jayden Umbarger helped set up Lavatai’s 2-yard touchdown on a draw run.

But Navy attempted a surprise onside kick and Cincinnati picked it up near midfield. Just a minute later, Ridder hit Whyle over the top for a 31-yard score to tie it 7-7.

Navy moved back ahead with a field goal and stalled the next Bearcat drive when Ridder threw an interception to Jamal Glenn in coverage near the goal line.

Later, with the score 10-10, the Midshipmen ran down the first-half game clock and went for a long field goal, but it was blocked and returned by Deshawn Pace. In a fortunate turn for Cincinnati, Pace stepped out of bounds with one second left, allowing his kicker Alex Bales time to knock down a 52-yard field goal that delivered the Bearcats a 13-10 halftime lead.

That finally got Cincinnati going. The Bearcats visited the end zone twice in the third quarter, when Ford broke away for a 43-yard touchdown scamper and Ridder tossed a play-action dump pass to Whyle for a 3-yarder.

Ridder finished with 176 yards on 18-for-30 passing with two TDs and an interception. Whyle led the Bearcats with 60 receiving yards.

–Field Level Media