No. 4 undefeated Cincinnati, outpacing East Carolina 35-13
Greenville, North Carolina Desmond Reader threw two touchdown passes and No. 4 Cincinnati, aiming to maintain his spot among the top four in the football world’s rankings, a perfect regular season with a 35-13 win over East Carolina on Friday.
The Bearcats (12-0, 8-0 American Athletic Conference, CFP No. 4) are trying to become the first team outside the Power Five Conference to compete in the four-team CFP. They will face Houston at home next week in the AAC title match.
“Put yourselves in a position to play for the championships, a lot of other things can happen,” said Cincinnati coach Luke Fekl.
The defense and specials teams helped put the match away from Cincinnati. Arcon Bush stopped a field goal and Ahmed Gardner returned the ball 60 yards to land in the fourth quarter to make it 28-6.
“We’re always doing our job,” Bush said.
Less than four minutes later, Darian Beavers intercepted a pass at the 7:27 mark, but the possession that followed led to Cincinnati’s second turn into East Carolina 5.
East Carolina (7-5, 5-3) had a four-game winning streak in a row.
“You see why they’re competing for a national championship,” East Carolina coach Mike Houston said. “I thought our kids played really hard. I thought they did a lot of things well. … For our young players, it’s a great learning experience.”
Ryder finished 17-for-28 for 301 yards with two interceptions. Alec Pierce picked up eight passes for 136 yards. Jerome Ford rushed for 85 yards and landed.
Within four shots of Cincinnati early in the second quarter, the Bearcats went from losing 3-0 to up 14-3.
Ryder hooked up with Leonard Taylor in a 44-yard touchdown game. Cincinnati recovered the ball and went for 58 yards in three plays, with Ridder’s 53-yard throw to Pierce setting Ford up for a two-yard throw.
Then Cincinnati led 88 yards in seven plays with Pierce holding the 28-yard run.
The Bearcats failed to turn on the first scoring opportunity created by special teams.
Ryan Royer partially blocked a kick in the East Carolina to give the Bearcats their first possession in the 31 Pirates. That opportunity fizzled out with back-to-back sacks and Alex Bales’ wide right kick in a 45-yard field goal attempt.
After Owen Daver’s 35-yard field goal for the Buccaneers, the Bearkats hit the East Carolina 29 on their next possession before an incomplete Ryder pass in fourth and ninth.
After building a 21-3 lead, Cincinnati missed another chance on Ford’s stumbling into East Carolina 3 in its last drive of the first half.
East Carolina closed in within 21-6 and then headed to Cincinnati 5 early in the fourth quarter. But after a penalty kick, the Buccaneers were poised to settle for Daver’s third goal before Bosch disrupted those plans in what looked like a game-ending sequence with 11:07 remaining.
All-America’s Gardner grabbed the rebound and went out in front of the group to score.
East Carolina’s winning streak marked the longest streak of success playing AAC in its eight seasons as a member of the league.
Cincinnati also went 12-0 in the 2009 regular season.
The Pirates are facing their highest-ranked team since losing 27-10 at home in 2006 to no. 4 West Virginia, were held at 282 yards of total offense.
Holton Ahlers was 19-for-38 for 228 yards, an interception and a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jsi Hatfield.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats missed a lot of scoring chances and would have been chasing after them had it not been for an excellent defensive performance. They only gave up one touchdown and stopped East Carolina at 54 rushing yards—nearly 120 yards short of the Buccaneers season average.
East Carolina: The Buccaneers, who will finish in a third-place AAC showdown with Central Florida and the Tulsa Southern Methodist winner on Saturday, were aiming for a rare victory against a top 25 team. With this score, the Buccaneers are 13-63-1 against the top 25 enemies. East Carolina beat its four AAC visitors in the first quarter by 27-0 this year, but 77 yards of a total offense in the first half on Saturday put it in a corner.
Take this, boss
In the second quarter, Ryder passed Bearcats quarterback coach Gino Guidogli (11,930 yards) as the all-time leader in program history in yards. Ridder is also AAC’s career leader in total yards.
Meanwhile, Ford has crossed the 1,000-yard dash mark for the season. It’s 1056 yards away.
The repercussions of the opinion poll
Cincinnati wasn’t much under threat in this game, but the level might be high for the Bearcats. It’s hard to see them climb after such a score, although the performance should be enough for consistency.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats did not play Houston in the regular season.
East Carolina: Awaiting a pot call for its first post-season game since 2014.
Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.