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Cincinnati grabbed its chance on Saturday.
Last season, the Bearcats had an undefeated regular season, but didn’t even come close to winning the College Football Playoff field. This year it looks like the Bearcats have a chance.
Number 7 Cincinnati marched into South Bend, beating No. 9 Notre Dame, winning 24-13 to improve to 4-0 en route to conference play. With so many swings in the rankings early in the 2021 season, consecutive wins over Indiana and Notre Dame should give the Bearcats the top-level stamina they desperately needed last year.
And as long as they keep winning, the Bearcats will remain in the CFP conversation as the season progresses.
There wasn’t much offensiveness early on in this one, but the Bearcats forced three Notre Dame turnovers in the first half – two interceptions and a fumble to keep the Irish out of the end zone and establish a 17-0 lead they wouldn’t. to report.
It was going to be tricky in the long run, but senior quarterback Desmond Ridder made the necessary moves to ensure a win for his team.
Cincinnati built on that lead by first taking Notre Dame at the goal line on the first drive and then doing it again on the Irish’s fourth drive. The second interception took place deep inside Notre Dame. Three games later, Knight Leonard Taylor hit a yard to give the Bearcats a 7-0 lead.
Notre Dame then botched the ensuing kickoff, allowing the Bearcats to tackle a short field goal. And just before halftime, Ridder found Tre Tucker for a 27-yard score to give the Bearcats a 17-0 lead at the break.
In the second half, Cincinnati missed two short field goals and fidgeted, allowing Notre Dame to hang. The Irish got a spark from Drew Pyne, the third QB they played on Saturday, and his touchdown pass to Braden Lenzy narrowed Cincinnati’s lead to 17-13 with 8:20 left.
But Knight and the Bearcats didn’t want to wither. Ridder threw an absolute dime at Taylor for a 36-yard win and later put the finishing touches to the win with a hasty six-meter score with 5:08 to go.
Knight finished the day with 297 passing yards, 26 rushing yards and three total touchdowns. While Taylor and Tucker both made big plays, Alec Pierce was the lead receiver. He posted six catches for 144 yards in the win.
What’s next for Cincinnati?
Just win, baby. That will be the mentality for the Bearcats.
As a member of a Group of Five conference (for now), Cincinnati will have to go undefeated to have a shot at the four-team playoff. And the Bearcats will probably be best served by convincingly winning these upcoming games.
That march through the American Athletic Conference begins with a brief reversal with Temple—fresh off an upset victory over Memphis—visiting Nippert Stadium Friday night. Next week will be a visit from UCF, a team that is always dangerous, even with QB Dillon Gabriel injured.
Later on, Cincinnati has Navy and Tulane on the road, Tulsa at home, South Florida on the road, SMU at home and East Carolina on the road.
Even with an undefeated season, a CFP berth is not certain. The CFP selection committee gave the Bearcats so little respect last year. It becomes an ongoing storyline as the season progresses.
This year, however, Cincinnati has road victories at Indiana, a Big Ten team and the mighty Notre Dame under its belt. They can only help the Bearcats’ cause.
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