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Cincinnati Falls to Alabama in Defense-Plagued Cotton Bowl Classic

Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Cincinnati v Alabama Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Brian Robinson Jr. tore up the Cincinnati defense, Desmond Ridder struggled to complete passes with accuracy and the Alabama Crimson Tide handed the Cincinnati Bearcats their first loss of the 2021 season.

Robinson Jr., who entered the game after nursing a minor hamstring injury over the break, totaled a career high 204 yards on 26 carries.

“It’s a great feeling, man,” the star of the day said in his postgame interview. “Just having this team behind me and trusting me to give it all my all… This is like a dream come true. The time came and I was ready for it.”

Bill O Brien’s offense was quick to hop on the hurry up from the game’s opening drive, running it down the throats of the Bearcats defensive line with the aforementioned Robinson Jr. The Crimson Tide took it on the ground with ten straight runs, and it eventually payed off on the final play of the drive with a Bryce Young touchdown pass — his first throw off the game — to Slade Bolden. Bolden, who serves as the team’s slot receiver, finished his Friday at three catches for 31 yards and a score.

Cincinnati imitated Alabama’s opening ease on offense with an efficient drive of its own. A flip to Michael Young Jr. on a screen from Ridder put the Bearcats in Alabama territory with a twenty yard gain. That was later followed by a screen to Tyler Scott on the left for a catch and run to set up first and goal, but the drive stalled out a few plays later after an Alabama timeout seemingly reversed momentum.

Ridder failed to hit Alec Pierce on two straight slants over the middle thanks to Henry To’oTo’o tip and drop by the receiver, creating a situation in which the Bearcats had to settle for a field goal.

The result of such a drive summed up the results of Cincinnati’s full game offense: a missed opportunity. Ridder never managed to put his team on the board for the rest of the first half, and Alabama eventually capitalized in the final minutes before the break.

Bryce Young found a wide open Ja’Corey Brooks — John Metchie’s replacement as the WR No. 2 for the Crimson Tide — down the left side to expand the halftime advantage to 17-3.

Cincinnati answered out of the break with another field goal and managed to hold Alabama to zero third quarter points, but Bama’s defense never looked back after that, keeping the Bearcats out of the end zone for the remainder of the game. The display on the field was a mix of Ridder succumbing to pressure from a voracious Crimson Tide pash rush and Robinson Jr. continuing to expand the lead with every given possession.

Final Score: Alabama 27, Cincinnati 6

Overview for Cincinnati

With it’s Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic defeat at the hands of Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, Cincinnati totals out the 2022 season at a record of 13-1. The Bearcats loss marks the final game for a few veterans, including most notably, quarterback Desmond Ridder. Ridder holds the most wins in program history at 44 (3rd most in FBS history for any QB).

Among the other departures from Clifton will be early NFL Draft-bound talent in the form of X-factors on Cincinnati’s front seven and secondary. Ahmad Gardner remains the biggest loss thanks to his first round upside and zero allowed touchdowns. His partner — Coby Bryant — isn’t quite as fancied, but a Jim Thorpe Award to the senior CB’s name will help with draft stock.

In terms of seasonal recognitions, Cincinnati recorded it highest amount of wins (13) in program history. The Bearcats sported the campaign with marquee wins over Houston and Notre Dame and an AAC Championship victory as the cherry on top.

Overview for Alabama

Alabama owns the honors of competing for a fourth national championship in the last seven years. The Crimson Tide will face the winner of Michigan and Georgia’s Orange Bowl duel in the CFP National Championship on Monday, January 10. If the Dawgs come out on top, it would be the second time since early December in which Nick Saban takes on his former assistant. If it’s Michigan, Jim Harbaugh will earn the heavy duty task of going up against Saban and company for the second time in three years.

Cincinnati Stat Leaders

Passing: QB Desmond Ridder, 17-32, 144 yards and zero touchdowns

Rushing: RB Jerome Ford, 15 carries for 77 yards

Receiving: WR Michael Young Jr., four receptions for 55 yards

Alabama Stat Leaders

Passing: QB Bryce Young, 17-28, 181 yards, three touchdowns and one interception

Rushing: RB Brian Robinson Jr., 26 carries for 204 yards

Receiving: WR JaCorey Brooks, four receptions for 66 yards and one touchdown