This game had everything. A huge comeback. A late goal-line stand. A game-sealing interception. More than 60 points scored. Everything. When the dust finally settled, the Cincinnati Bearcats somehow found themselves on top 34-30, as they overcame the Ohio Bobcats at Nippert Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Things didn’t start off so splendidly. The Bearcats (4-0) spotted the Bobcats (1-2) a 21-0 advantage in the first half as the offense sputtered and the defense failed to keep Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke from making plays with his arm and legs. That was a theme throughout the afternoon, as Rourke ran for 96 yards and a score while adding 178 yards and a touchdown through the air.
When halftime came around, the Bearcats were down 24-7, although they nearly managed to pull within two scores with a last-second field goal.
As the second half began, the Bearcats needed to start fast and that’s just what they did. After taking UC got the opening kickoff, Desmond Ridder hooked up with Rashad Medaris on a 77-yard touchdown strike and the comeback was on. Ridder led the way, overcoming a dreadful start (he completed only two of his first eight pass attempts) to finish with 274 yards and two scores on 19-of-29 passing. Perhaps the most beautiful throw (and catch) of the game occurred when Ridder hit Jayshon Jackson for a 26-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.
WHAT I TELL YOU...JAYSHON JACKSON IS THAT DUDE. pic.twitter.com/pTyzf4qT4v— sK. (@_ShaneKinnee) September 22, 2018
That score cut the Bearcats’ deficit to 30-28. After forcing a stop on Ohio’s next possession, they then marched 92 yards on 13 plays to take the lead on a three-yard scoring run from, Michael Warren, who finished with 124 yards and two scores on 23 carries.
All of that would have been enough drama for one day, but the Bearcats were determined to put on an unforgettable show. With a 34-30 lead in hand and a little more than three minutes to play, all the they had to do was get a stop but Rourke quickly erased that idea, running for 37 yards on Ohio’s first play of the next drive. A few penalties helped Ohio get to within a few feet of the goal line, but then magic happened. First Ohio running back A.J. Ouellette was tackled for a loss on second and goal from the one. That set up a third and four and the Bobcats decided to throw.
Big mistake. Huge.
Channeling his inner Malcolm Butler, James Wiggins came through with a game-sealing interception in the end zone to cap off the comeback.
Even with a nearly disastrous start, the Bearcats finished with 424 yards of total offense, while allowing 412 to the Bobcats. UC also hurt itself throughout the afternoon by committing far too many penalties. In total, the Bearcats were called for 14 infractions, costing them 150 yards and helping Ohio keep a number of drives alive, including the last one. Luckily, the defense made the stand of a lifetime and allowed UC to walk off the field 4-0.
The Bearcats will now make their way to American Athletic Conference play, which begins next weekend against the UConn Huskies. Hopefully our collective heart rate will have lowered a bit by then.