CINCINNATI, OHIO — Desmond Ridder totaled five touchdowns, Alec Pierce scored twice, and the Cincinnati Bearcats trounced SMU to keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive.
Ridder — a 41 win quarterback — opened up the floodgates on Cincinnati’s first offensive play from scrimmage with a 53-yard bomb to Tyler Scott. The versatile senior tallied 16 completions for 274 yards on the day, earning himself stats in the receiving and rushing categories as well.
“Nothing changed for us, we knew that we had to come out here and have a dominant game,” Ridder told the media regarding his team’s status as a top contender. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs with SMU where the past couple games have been a battle all the way up until midway through fourth quarter. We just knew that we had to play an entire game and come out and start fast.
The Bearcats continued to pound the pressure on with three touchdowns in their next four drives. Among the scores were runs from both Ridder and Jerome Ford and a 17-yard reception by Alec Pierce.
Ford has totaled a touchdown in all but one of his games, remaining as one of the top rushing scorers (7) in college football. He finished Saturday with 20 carries for 82 yards.
By halftime, Cincinnati held a 27-0 lead and remained well within the commander’s seat. Head coach Luke Fickell showed some dismay regarding K Alex Bales’s two missed field goals, but was relatively proud of his team nonethless.
“Every game is a challenge,” Fickell said. “But I think that there was a little something different coming into this one, not just that they were 8-2, the way they had played all year and the things that they had done. But I did sense a little more urgency, a little bit more of that energy. And not just on Saturday, but in the entire week.”
In the second half, senior receiver Jordan Jones found Ridder in the endzone for a five-yard TD to commence three straight drives of scoring. Jones, who is from Smackover, Arkansas, accounted for his fifth touchdown (the first of 2021) as a Bearcat with the Philly Special-like play.
Both teams would tack on two scores later on, but it was too little to late for SMU to stage a comeback.
Final Score: Cincinnati 48, SMU 14
With their win over SMU, Cincinnati clinches its third straight appearance in the AAC Championship Game. The Bearcats (No. 5 in the current playoff rankings) are set to cap off their regular season slate next Friday vs. East Carolina before facing the Houston Cougars (10-1, 8-0 American Athletic Conference) for the conference title.
Among other notable storylines across college football on Saturday was No. 3 Oregon’s 38-7 defeat at the hands of Utah. The Ducks (Now 9-2 overall) will make way for the possibility of Cincinnati jumping into playoff position behind Georgia (11-0), Alabama (10-1) and Ohio State (10-1). Luke Fickell and co. are certainly not a lock for the CFP — aside from the committee’s contempt for group of five teams, Oklahoma State (Currently No. 9 in the rankings) seems to be on the rise — but the majority of scenarios favor a Bearcat entry.
Cincinnati Key Stat Leaders
Passing: QB Desmond Ridder, 17-23, 274 yards and three touchdowns
Rushing: RB Jerome Ford, 20 carries, 82 yards and one touchdown
Receiving: WR Tre Tucker, seven receptions, 114 yards and zero touchdowns
Tackling: LB Deshawn Pace, seven total tackles, zero solo tackles
SMU Key Stat Leaders
Passing: QB Tanner Mordecai, 15-26, 66 yards and one touchdown
Rushing: RB Ulysses Bentley IV, 11 carries, 68 yards and zero touchdowns
Receiving: WR Rashee Rice, seven receptions, 21 yards and one touchdown
Tackling: LB Delano Robinson, 13 total tackles, three solo tackles
Full Remaining Cincinnati Schedule:
@ East Carolina Pirates, Saturday, November 27
AAC Championship Game vs. Houston, Saturday, December 4