Cotton Bowl final

The historic season for the University of Cincinnati that saw countless records shattered, was ended by the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide in a 27-6 churning battle that was out sought by the Tide. 

The historic season for the University of Cincinnati that saw countless records shattered, was ended by the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide in a 27-6 churning battle that was out sought by the Tide. 

The 86th Goodyear Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas was the first College Football Playoff (CFP) semifinal to host a non-Power 5 school; Cincinnati being the lone representative to make it. 

“The path is there, you just have to go out and handle your business,” Dublanko said following the game on being a “group of five” team in the AAC making the CFP. “We’re just going to keep fighting,” 

Prior to kickoff, Cincinnati fans dominated the crowd of AT&T Stadium, letting infamous chants of Nippert Stadium ring through the sea of red and crimson, specifically “Down The Drive.” 

Alabama’s quarterback, Bryce Young, had no problem with Cincinnati selecting to defer the coin toss to the second half, efficiently taking the open drive 75 yards in just 11 plays for a Slade Bolden touchdown reception. 

Cincinnati’s Michael Young Jr. saw early success against the Crimson Tide’s defense, breaking loose for two first downs in the opening drive, setting up Cincinnati’s first points against Alabama since 1990, a relieving and reassuring field goal. 

Cincinnati’s quarterback, Desmond Ridder, was only able to connect for 144 yards, only his second time throwing for under 175 yards this season. 

Since his last kick in week 6, Cincinnati’s Cole Smith has been sidelined watching a struggling kicker battle result in missed field goals followed by missed extra points. However, the playoffs called, and he answered with the opening three points for Cincinnati. 

A Cincinnati sack late in the first quarter by linebacker Darrian Beavers, his fourth of the year, helped hold the Alabama offense to a field goal on their second offensive drive. 

After having an entire first quarter nearly deflated of energy and big plays, Cincinnati caught a brief break with an erupted stadium as the result of their first forced punt of Young’s offense. 

Super Bowl champion and former Bearcat, Travis Kelce, who has dominated the internet for being a passionate advocate of his successors, gave the Bearcat fans in attendance a resounding moment at the onset of his presence in AT&T Stadium.

With 76,313 fans in attendance, Heisman Trophy winner, Bryce Young, broke Alabama’s single season record for passing yards, hitting 4,503 yards against Cincinnati that surpassed Mac Jones. 

While Cincinnati watched Brian Robinson Jr. dominate traffic on the ground, rushing for 204 yards and keeping his punting unit sidelined throughout the first half’s entirety, Ridder struggled to squeeze out 76 yards of total offense through 30 minutes. 

Whether 30 minutes was needed to adapt to the atmosphere or a halftime speech by Fickell hit home, Cincinnati came out in the third quarter with efficiency after being down 14. While Ridder remained an outcast from the endzone, it was Smith answering the call again, knocking down a 37-yard field goal to close the gap to 11. 

With the first turnover of the game usurpingly belonging to the Cincinnati “BlackCats” at the hands of safety Bryan Cook, it was the Bearcat’s offense unable to capitalize on yet another possession. 

While mutual respect was maintained throughout the games entirety, it was Cincinnati’s young future, Deshawn Pace, who drew the game’s first emotional personal foul. In his addresses leading up to the game, Fickell continuously reiterated the significance his senior-led group plays in handling emotion, noting it’s the young guys he sometimes worries about. 

Unable to break free from the line of scrimmage as he’s become used to doing, facing his former team, Cincinnati running back Jerome Ford, was only able to pick up 77 yards.  

“We didn’t play complimentary football,” Luke Fickell, Cincinnati’s head coach said following the game. 

Cincinnati’s Jim Thorpe Award recipient cornerback, Coby Bryant, who wore No. 8 to honor the late vintage Kobe Bryant, had a quite night while counterpart Ahmad Gardner finished his third season without allowing a touchdown. 

“I would definitely say it was a great season,” Ridder said following the game. “The only way is up.”

Following his many thanks to Cincinnati fans for showing out in Dallas and all season long, Ridder added that his team was not carrying the flag for any other program or conference but themselves. 

Despite the loss, Fickell assured that he couldn’t be prouder of his brotherhood that he believes shouldn’t be fractured by the loss. Ridder added that he made sure he was one of the last players to leave the field, soaking in his last moments in a Bearcat’s uniform. 

The future of Cincinnati’s program lies in the hands of underclassman such as Tre Tucker and Pace, who Fickell says he hopes recognizes how fragile the loss was and use it as motivation for the future of the program. 

“You don’t ever forget the feeling,” Fickell said. 

The winner of tonight’s Capital One Orange Bowl between the University of Georgia and the University of Michigan will face Alabama on Jan. 10 in the National Championship. 

The championship, taking place at Indianapolis’s Lucas Oil Stadium, will begin at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN.