The Bearcats have undoubtedly given more public attention to their fan base this season than they have to their own national ranking. The fans of University of Cincinnati football have shown up and shown out so frequently that it's almost as if they're the twelfth man on the field for the No. 5 team in the country.
Leading the Bearcats is head coach Luke Fickell and his key to success: the "Desmond Ridder effect." Following their win over Notre Dame, Fickell has repeatedly mentioned the "Desmond Ridder effect" in reference to the game and leadership skills of his fifth-year starting quarterback.
Fickell and Ridder can't say enough about the appreciation they have felt for the Cincinnati fan base that has rallied behind them as one of the top teams in the nation. Ridder had more to say about the fans than he did his performance.
"It was almost breathtaking," said Ridder on the red crowd that took over Notre Dame Stadium. "We just want to thank them from the bottom of our hearts."
297 passing yards and three touchdowns later, Ridder launched the Notre Dame game ball into the sea of fans to thank them for working hard to get to South Bend.
Fickell says that now that the first part of their season is behind them, they're focused on the middle part that entails conference play before making the "last run" of the season's end.
Following two stellar performances in Indiana and a turbulent 2020 season, Ridder's biggest threat, Alec Pierce, is back.
Although some numbers might beg to differ, Ridder says the Bearcats aren't a statistical team and that they're more about what happens in the trenches.
Heading into conference play, Ridder thinks the entire American Athletic Conference (AAC) will be putting on full four-quarter battles.
When it comes to his near eight-man offensive lineman room that rotates through the five starting spots, Ridder has taken initiative to study extra film with his protectors. So far, Ridder's extra leadership has paid off, as he has stayed upright alongside team captain and tackle Vincent McConnell.
According to Ridder, the cumulation of years of success under Fickell's leadership contributes to the undefeated Bearcats being ranked No. 5.
"I never thought we'd be here in this moment in this time of day, so it's honestly a blessing," said Ridder on the program's current status compared to his first play from scrimmage in the 2018 Rose Bowl.
Despite major speculation into Ridder being a Heisman award candidate, life hasn't changed for the quarterback, who is just trying to play his best ball.
Fickell, who says that consistency is the "hallmark to greatness" in everything that his team does, has been giving the Bearcats extra preparation for quick-paced game plays this season. While that may have been the reason for their only two losses in the last two seasons, Fickell says that the team is now much more comfortable when reacting to under-two-minute game scenarios.
Regarding the Bearcats' hope to join the College Football Playoffs later this year, Fickell used NCAA basketball as a comparison, saying that in the end, whoever is playing their best ball gets the opportunity to continue.
Both the adversity of the game and the praise that follows is something Fickell says his team must handle even to be considered in the post-season. The fans and the team are in this season together, and Fickell says each must do their part.
"I think it's really, really important to us," said Fickell on the home crowd that packs into Nippert Stadium, with his personal favorite being against UCF in 2019.
"I think it's really, really important to us," said Fickell of the crowd that packs into Nippert Stadium during home games. His favorite crowd, personally, was the 2019 home game against the University of Central Florida.