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Season in Review: Desmond Ridder

Cincinnati’s quarterback of the future has arrived.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Numbers

  • 2,445 passing yards
  • 20 passing touchdowns
  • 5 interceptions
  • 62.4 completion percentage
  • 583 rushing yards
  • 5 rushing touchdowns

Of the many promising developments of the 2018 season for the Cincinnati Bearcats, Desmond Ridder’s ascension to starting quarterback may have been the most important or, at the least, the most noticeable because of the high visibility of the position. Ridder was second on the depth chart when the Bearcats opened their season against UCLA, but after a few empty series with starter Hayden Moore, Ridder took over. The Bearcats went on to win that game and the rest is history.

A three-star recruit, Ridder sat out in 2017 and made his collegiate debut as a redshirt freshman this past fall. Any concern that he wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure disappeared pretty early on. After helping the Bearcats defeat the Bruins, he led UC’s offense through win after win. Before they fell for the first time against Temple, Ridder had thrown for 1,062 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions on 65.6 percent passing while adding 315 yards and four scores on the ground. With production like that from their quarterback, the Bearcats rose to 6-0.

Even after losing to Temple, Ridder bounced back and kept producing at a high level. He threw for a career-high 352 yards against SMU and added his second career 300-yard effort in the regular season final against East Carolina.

When the dust settled on the regular season, the Bearcats were 10-2 overall and headed to the Military Bowl. Ridder captained the ship once more in that bowl game, but after throwing for 86 yards and a touchdown, he had to leave with a leg injury.

Although that injury didn’t allow Ridder to lead the Bearcats to their bowl victory entirely, it didn’t take away from what was a brilliant first season. Ridder ended up with 2,445 passing yards and 20 touchdowns compared to only five interceptions. He completed better than 60 percent of his passes and had a QB rating of 146.4, which ranked fourth in the American Athletic Conference. Ridder also brought the deep ball back into play for the Bearcats, averaging 8.4 yards per adjusted attempt. That was the best mark by a UC quarterback since 2015.

As if his throwing wasn’t enough, Ridder also kept defenses honest with his rushing ability. He ran for 583 yards and five touchdowns, tallying at least 60 rushing yards six times including a 100-yard effort against Miami (Ohio).

The Best of the Best

Sept. 8 vs. Miami (Ohio)

It might seem odd to call a game in which Ridder threw for a total of 45 yards one of his best performances. However, when you account for the terrible weather conditions and the 100 rushing yards he produced, the picture becomes clearer, especially since the Bearcats won.

Sept. 15 vs. Alabama A&M

Ridder didn’t play all of this game because UC got out to such a big lead and then coasted. He definitely made a lot of that possible, as he was responsible for four total touchdowns while throwing for 199 yards on 9-of-10 passing.

Sept. 29 at UConn

Ridder rallied the Bearcats to victory against Ohio the week before this game, but he struggled at times in the early going. Against the Huskies, he had no such problem, throwing for 270 yards and two scores on 20-of-26 passing while racking up 47 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Oct. 27 at SMU

Fresh off a tough loss to Temple, Ridder traveled to Dallas and picked apart the SMU secondary, finishing with a a career-high 352 yards passing. Even though he was intercepted twice, he had two passing touchdowns and also rushed for 47 yards.

Nov. 10 vs. USF

Ridder’s yardage total wasn’t outstanding (194), but he was efficient as a passer, completing better than 70 percent of his throws. He also ran for 60 yards and had two passing touchdowns in a key victory.

Nov. 23 vs. East Carolina

Following a disappointing showing against UCF, Ridder took his frustrations out on the Pirates in the last game of the regular season. He surpassed 300 yards passing for the second time and set a career-high with four touchdown throws.

For Next Year

Optimism could not be any higher for Ridder. The American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year played exceptionally well, completing passes efficiently and all over the field while being a dynamic play maker in the rushing game. He was also at the helm for a team that won 11 games and now has its sights set on even more. Ridder will play a large part in those plans. To do so effectively, he’ll need to keep completing passes at an advanced rate, even without top receiver Kahlil Lewis. In addition, considering he has the ball in his hands so often and because he will take off and run, cutting down on the fumbles (10 total, seven lost) will go a long way. Of course, these are minor challenges for a player who has conquered much more difficult ones already.