CINCINNATI, OHIO — The result seemed destined to be from Central Florida’s first punt of a game. A Bearcat tip of the ball from the return unit, followed by a favorable bounce that went out at the UCF 38.
Quarterback Desmond Ridder and company then marched inside their adversary’s ten, and what commenced was an opening drive touchdown from the ever-reliable power back Jerome Ford.
Ford produced three more TD’s alongside a total of 189 yards on the day, bulking up his team’s damage in the first half. Among them were a breakthrough 79-yard score in which the ‘Bama transfer found a lane down the sideline, another first quarter run up the gut and a waltz to the right from inside the four to put his team up 28.
“I don’t know that we’re going to be like we were three years ago, where it was Michael Warren and he’s going to get the ball 34 times,” Coach Luke Fickell said last week after Ford captured the American Athletic Offensive Player of the Week honor. “If we have to, I don’t think that Jerome could do that. But just where we’ve grown as an offense, I think we’re still better when we have a chance to move the ball around and not be as one-dimensional as maybe we had to be in the past.”
Cincy’s early 35-0 advantage prompted the commencement of the usual College Football Playoff talks from the broadcast crew — this time Bob Wischusen and Dan Orlovsky — which entailed the necessity of winning games big to impress the committee. Coach Fickell spewed the idea last week that style really wasn’t his thing, but a graphic put up by ESPN reiterated the strength of schedule ratings among top-ranked teams. Cincinnati was 95th.
“I don’t have a whole lot of style, my wife picks my clothes, so I don’t know what you mean about style,” Fickell said. “We like to play complete games and finish things out.”
UCF later reciprocated towards the backend of the half thanks to the likes of a 51-yard run across all sides of the Nip’ from Ryan O’Keefe. The Texas native took it inside the 25 and QB Mikey Keene did the rest, spreading the field and hitting Brandon Johnson in the end-zone for the senior WR’s lone reception of the day.
Keene, who enters his first season at Central Florida, processed 16 completions on 27 throws for 141 yards and a TD/pair of interceptions. He jogged towards the locker room with his team down 35-7 at half.
The opening Cincinnati command did later simmer down in light of the Knights first score. Credit the Bearcats defense for holding firm in the third — they limited UCF to a single touchdown — but Desmond Ridder’s spark (along with his receivers) simeoutaneously started to burn out. Battling a firming Gus Malzzhan defense, Ridder attempted to pile on points; however, Charles McClelland fumbled and UCF garnered the opportunity to set up their offense in solid field position around their own 30.
Keene drove down his squad to the Cincy 29 through a demoralizing 11 play beginning to the drive. The style plays included a ten-yard run by Isaiah Bowser, a completed pass to Nate Craig Meyers past the Bearcats logo, and a few stength runs to move the chains.
But the advancement ended as soon as it began. This time, courtesy of a Coby Bryant 74-yard pick six. Bryant, who enters his senior season with the Bearcats, hawked off the ball after an ill-advised Keene pass to the left behind his receiver. The rest was a relatively stress free jog down the sideline.
UCF did score on the subsequent drive, but their remaining chances of victory were lower than that of an FCS school playing in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Knights disaster ensued through the likes of two late Cinci touchdowns under a pair of quick drives. Both came through some of the usual suspects of the fourth quarter — Ethan Wright and Evan Prater — as the trend of Bearcats final quarter cruise-control held firm.
Final Score: Cincinnati 56, UCF 21
After the bludgeoning of UCF, Cincinnati is slated to face off against Navy next week in Annapolis. The Midshipmen’s lone triumph of the season came against the Central Florida, which now sits at 3-3.
(The AAC is a bit harder than expected, isn’t it Mr. Gus Malzahn?)
UCF, on the other hand, has a date against the Memphis Tigers in lite of their .500 humbling
Cincinnati Key Stat Leaders
Passing: QB Desmond Ridder, 13-23, 140 yards for one touchdown
Rushing: RB Jerome Ford, 20 carries, 189 yards and four touchdowns
Receiving: TE Leonard Taylor, four receptions, 47 yards
Tackling: LB Joel Dublanko, ten total tackles, five solo tackles
UCF Key Stat Leaders
Passing: QB Mikey Keene, 16-27, 141 yards for one touchdown and two interceptions
Rushing: WR Ryan O’Keefe, one carry, 51 yards
Receiving: WR Ryan O’Keefe, seven receptions, 60 yards
Tackling: LB Tatum Bethune, 10 total tackles, three solo tackles
Full Remaining Cincinnati Schedule:
@ Navy Midshipmen, Saturday, October 23
@ Tulane Green Wave, Saturday, October 30
Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Saturday, November 6
@ USF Bulls, Friday, November 12
SMU Mustangs, Saturday, November 20
@ East Carolina Pirates, Saturday, November 27