ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND — The Cincinnati Bearcats encountered a dogfight at the hands of Navy’s run heavy offense in Saturday’s 27-20 victory.
Traversing the way for the Midshipmen (1-6, 1-4 American Athletic Conference) was quarterback Tai Lavatai, who rushed 21 times for a pair of touchdowns despite minimal success in the air attack.
Lavatai entered Saturday at the helm little passing experience, coming off his first four games with only 10 successful throws on the season. He and Navy still found themselves with an early 10-7 lead.
“We know that we can just play our football,” Lavatai said after sticking with Cincinnati for the majority of the game. “We can go up against anyone. We believe in ourselves and that’s the biggest thing for us.”
Desmond Ridder responded to his team’s implodefull-like start with two pass heavy drives. The result was ten Bearcat points from a 31-yard TD reception by Josh Whyle and a Christian lowery FG from 32 out, notching the two teams at ten apiece. The 6’ 6”, 245-pound TE — Whyle — finished the day with four receptions for 60 yards and two scores in lieu of a second half checkdown from inside the five.
Cincinnati's onslaught in the third made way for a 17-point Bearcat advantage, courtesy of Whyle’s second touchdown and some action from the ever-reliable Jerome Ford. The once Bama bound transfer exploded up the open gut for a 43-yard score and placed the game on ice, but Navy responded late with one final scare.
Lavatai engineered an 18-play drive that saw UC commit two crucial 15 yard penalties within the final 1:30. The Midshipmen took advantage, and their quarterback dove over the plane on 2nd goal from the 1 to put the game at an arms length view.
“We’ve got to find ways, especially on the road, when you’re up, whatever it is, 13 points or something, to kind of close things out,” Fickell said in response to the close finish. “That’s probably the only thing that I’m somewhat disappointed we couldn’t and didn’t do today, but we needed a challenge and we got one.”
The woes continued on the subsequent play from the leg of Navy K Daniel Davies. Davies faked out the UC return unit in a misdirection kick to an area with a slew of his fellow attackers, and the Midshipmen recovered at their own 47.
The nail-biting didn’t stop until Bearcat CB Arquon Bush came up with a takeaway along the sidelines of his own 43. That signaled the end to a hard-fought, struggle-some, and somewhat concerning 27-20 Bearcat victory.
Final Score: Cincinnati 27, Navy 20
With their first ever win in Annapolis in the back seat, Cincinnati is set to play Tulane next Saturday at a record of 7-0. Critics of the Bearcats speculate that a drop in the polls is warranted, but the team behind UC — Oklahoma — didn’t do much better on Saturday. The Sooners edged out 1-6 after trailing for the majority of the first the first three quarters.
Tulane lost to SMU on Thursday in light of the Mustangs seventh win. Tanner Mordecai threw for three TD’s and possesses high hopes of facing off in a battle of undefeated AAC teams at the Nip’ on November 20, but the Mustangs will first have to get through 5-1 Houston next week along with Memphis and UCF.
Cincinnati Key Stat Leaders
Passing: QB Desmond Ridder, 18-30, 176 yards and two touchdowns
Rushing: RB Jerome Ford, 15 carries, 90 yards and one touchdown
Receiving: TE Josh Whyle, four receptions, 60 yards and one touchdown
Tackling: LB Joel Dublanko, 15 total tackles, nine solo tackles
Navy Key Stat Leaders
Passing: QB Tai Lavatai, 11-15, 116 yards
Rushing: FB Isaac Ruoss, 19 carries, 80 yards
Receiving: FB Kai Puailoa-Rojas, two receptions, 47 yards
Tackling: CB Jamal Glenn, 11 total tackles, five solo tackles
Full Remaining Cincinnati Schedule:
@ 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