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Cincinnati Bearcats Football Season in Review: Desmond Ridder

Ridder was better as a runner but worse as a passer in 2019.

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Temple v Cincinnati Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Numbers

  • 2,164 passing yards
  • 18 passing touchdowns
  • 9 interceptions
  • 55.1 completion percentage
  • 650 rushing yards
  • 5 rushing touchdowns

Desmond Ridder had the element of surprise for the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2018. In 2019, he didn’t have that benefit, as he was the starter under center from the moment the season began. After he took control of the offense as a freshman, Ridder endured a bit of a sophomore slump last season, with teams forcing him to make more adjustments than the previous year.

Ridder’s 2019 counting numbers were in the same neighborhood as what he produced in 2018. He surpassed 2,000 passing yards once again and had 18 passing touchdowns. However, both totals fell below his 2018 marks and were combined with two discouraging developments.

The first was Ridder’s deteriorated accuracy. After completing 62.4 percent of his passes and tallying five interceptions in 2018, Ridder only connected on 55.1 percent of his passes while being intercepted nine times in 2019. Secondly, Ridder began to throw the ball down field less often, posting a nearly two-yard reduction in adjusted yards per attempt (8.4 to 6.5). All of this regression occurred despite more pass attempts (325).

Ridder was able to smooth over the rough edges by using his legs. He logged 650 rushing yards and scored five touchdowns on the ground, providing the offense with an element of surprise that defenses had to keep in mind.

The Best of the Best

Sept. 28, 2019 at Marshall

Ridder couldn’t miss against the Thundering Herd. He had as many touchdown passes as incomplete passes (four), connecting on 18-of-22 throws for 221 yards. He also tossed in 48 rushing yards for good measure.

Oct. 12, 2019 at Houston

Sometimes a quarterback has to go out a win a game. You could say Ridder did that against Houston. He set the tone with a 13-yard rushing touchdown and a 75-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. He finished the game with a season-high 263 passing yards, 50 rushing yards and four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing).

Dec. 7, 2019 at Memphis

In the American Athletic Conference title game, Ridder didn’t throw well (16-for-36), but he gutted his way to 233 passing yards and ran for another 113 (a career-high), while also scoring once on the ground.

Jan. 2, 2020 vs. Boston College

In a trend that began in the AAC championship, Ridder took it upon himself to carry the offense. I mean that literally. He only threw for 95 yards, but he racked up 105 rushing yards and three rushing scores on 21 carries, setting person-bests in those last two metrics.

For Next Year

As he dealt with less than perfect health, Ridder reinvented himself to a degree in the last two games of 2019, doing what he could on the ground to make up for his reduction in efficiency through the air. But the change wasn’t just because he got hurt. Ridder did not complete 60 percent or more of his passes in a game after September and failed to reach 200 yards passing in six of the final seven games of the year. Getting healthy is the No. 1 thing on Ridder’s to-do list but after that, he needs to make real improvement as a passer to maintain his starting role, especially with Ben Bryant and Evan Prater waiting in the wings.