The Cincinnati Bearcats football squad made its triumphant return to the land of the 10 win teams this afternoon. They defeated the East Carolina Pirates 56-6.
Playing before a vivacious home crowd at Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati earned its first 10 win season since 2012, the last year of the Butch Jones era.
Last season, Cincinnati got taken to the woodshed by ECU. The Pirates manhandled the Bearcats in a 48-20 loss down in Greenville. It was UC’s 8th loss in an 8 loss season.
This season, the Bearcats crushed East Carolina in every aspect of the game from the opening whistle onward. Cincinnati was simply the tougher, more aggressive, and more athletic team all afternoon. The Bearcats outgained ECU 641-303. Cincinnati forced 5 turnovers and earned 25 first downs, twice as many as the visiting Pirates.
In one half of play, Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder put up some awfully gaudy numbers. He completed 20 of 29 passes for 335 yards. He threw 2 of his 4 touchdown passes to Khalil Lewis, who earned a third touchdown reception on a third quarter Hayden Moore scoring toss. In all, Lewis gained 203 receiving yards on 9 receptions.
Ridder threw three touchdown passes in the first quarter alone, enabling Cincinnati to build a 21-0 lead after 15 minutes of play. Cincinnati extended its advantage to 42-6 during the second quarter, allowing a cadre of reserves to earn valuable playing time in the game’s third and fourth quarters.
On the defensive side of the ball, Cincinnati’s defensive front, in particular pass rusher extraordinaire Marquise Copeland and strong side stalwart Curtis Brooks, were unblockable all afternoon.
The win puts Cincinnati in prime position for a strong bowl game this holiday season. As of three days ago, SB Nation projects that Cincinnati will earn a New Year’s Eve date with the Miami Hurricanes in the Military Bowl. Wherever our Bearcats end up, a loud and proud following will be there to cheer them on. Check back with Down the Drive for full coverage of Cincinnati’s triumphant return to the post-season.
One has to assume that Luke Fickell will be the leading candidate for AAC coach of the year, returning our Bearcats to the ranks of the conference’s elite. A strong case can be made that Fickell merits consideration for National Coach of the Year honors, considering the sorry state in which Tommy Tuberville left the program just a couple of years ago.
Time will tell as we shift away from the regular season over the next couple of weeks.