Bearcats gearing up for stretch run

Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder drops back to pass during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Tulsa on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
Caption
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder drops back to pass during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Tulsa on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Credit: Jeff Dean

Credit: Jeff Dean

Cincinnati travels to South Florida for Friday night tilt

CINCINNATI -- Up in one poll, down in another, the status quo in a third.

Welcome to college football.

After needing two late-game goal line stands to edge Tulsa, 28-20, in an American Athletic Conference game during Homecoming at the University of Cincinati’s Nippert Stadium on Saturday, the Bearcats remained No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 while dropping to No. 3 in the Coaches’ Poll and climbing in the second College Football Playoff rankings to No. 5 from No. 6.

Quarterback Desmond Ridder said it’s fun to see Cincinnati ranked with the likes of perennial-powers Alabama and Georgia and Ohio State and Oklahoma.

“It’s cool to see our name, as the University of Cincinnati, and our program up there,” said the fifth-year senior quarterback, who is one touchdown pass away from tying current quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Gino Guidugli for the program’s career record and was named on Tuesday as a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, which recognizes the nation’s best quarterback.

“I wouldn’t say it’s added pressure or anything. Like (coach Luke Fickell) has always said, you know, all we care about is winning the conference championship, and once we do that, everything is going to take care of itself, so you know, we’re just taking it game-by-game, but it is a blessing and opportunity to be able to be, you know, involved in and be able to be a part of that and bring the city and community along with us.”

Fickell, speaking before Ridder, voiced concern that his Bearcats aren’t enjoying the ride that includes gunning for the second 10-0 start in program history. They would accomplish that with an AAC win on Friday at South Florida. Ridder described Fickell’s reaction after Saturday’s win.

“Coach Fick, in the postgame meeting he had with us, he was kind of getting on us because we weren’t celebrating,” Ridder said. “He was just really like, ‘Take this time and enjoy this moment, not only the moment, but the people around you and who we’re with, because one day it’s not going to be here,’ so honestly, we take it for granted sometimes. We’ve had great seasons over the past four years. Sometimes we take that for granted, which we can’t do with anything in life.”

Cincinnati now faces a challenging stretch run, starting with a short week to prepare for a road game against theBulls (2-7, 1-4) at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on Friday. The Bearcats twrap up their home regular season against Southern Methodist (7-2, 3-2) on Nov. 20 before traveling to East Carolina for another Friday road game on Nov. 26.

South Florida is coming off a 54-42 loss at undefeated Houston.

“The hard thing is then you try to celebrate a little bit, and then you’ve got to go real quick and get back into things,” Fickell said. “With a Friday game, you kind of start back over really fast but you try and remind them there’s a guaranteed three weeks left in the season. November is for contenders, and you’ll see it all across college football. The teams that are getting better, the teams that can take November and really use it in a positive way wherever they are as a football team. ... Traveling in a short week makes it even more difficult so, you know, wasn’t a whole lot of time to, I don’t want to say celebrate the victory because you know, you got to enjoy those things. Wasn’t a whole of time to even reflect. You’ve got to find the ways to grow from it and move forward. Quick week, we’ll load up on Thursday and get ready for our Friday night game.”

Fourth-year junior running back Jerome Ford’s availability for Friday’s game is up in the air. Ford left the Tulsa game in the second quarter with an apparent lower-leg injurybut not before scoring his 15th rushing touchdown and 16th overall of the season. Fickell had no update on the status of the Alabama transfer, a Tampa native.

FRIDAY’S GAME

Cincinnati at South Florida, 6 p.m., ESPN2, 700

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