The No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats left Notre Dame Stadium victorious, as they defeated the No. 9 Irish 24-13. This Top 10 matchup looked a lot different than the teams last and only meeting, in which Notre Dame took 58-0 in 1900.
The Bearcats were coming off a bye week following their victory over Indiana University, while undefeated Notre Dame was fresh off a home win against Wisconsin. Cincinnati’s traveling road crowd showed up equivalently as did their players, continuously ringing “Let's Go Bearcats” throughout Notre Dame Stadium.
Cincinnati’s deferment at the coin toss led to a hot Notre Dame first drive of 69 yards that was erased by a momentum-shifting Ahmad Gardner interception. Notre Dame continued to dominate possession time but allowed the efficient Cincinnati Bearcats to own the scoreboard and the crowd.
Despite the Irish dominating the clock early on, Cincinnati’s two first-half interceptions allowed the red and black to get on the board first. With an interception in back-to-back games, Cincinnati linebacker, Deshawn Pace, set up Ridder’s offense with only an eight-yard drive separating them from their first six points.
Pace’s interception marked the 11th turnover forced by the Bearcat’s defense in their last 10 quarters of play. The departure of former Cincinnati and current Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman seemingly left no loss of rhythm, only a gain of momentum for the Bearcats.
Freeman’s new defense seemingly had no response for Cincinnati’s senior wide receiver, Alec Pierce, who had 144 yards on six catches. Cincinnati’s extended 10-0 lead in the second quarter was set up by an Irish fumbled kickoff, allowing Cole Smith to split the uprights for Cincinnati.
While Ridder continued to get hot with receivers Alec Pierce and Leonard Taylor, Notre Dame could not settle on a quarterback, with starter Jack Coan and Tyler Buchner both falling short of expectations. While swapping in and out for each other, they each handed the Bearcats defense an interception in the first half.
Coming into the game, the Irish’s tight end from Cincinnati, Michael Mayer, was their leading offensive threat, and made his presence felt immediately with four catches for 32 yards in the first quarter. However, the Bearcat’s defense, the blackcats, locked him down in the second quarter, continuously funneling Notre Dame into three and outs.
With only 40 seconds remaining until halftime, the Bearcats offense found the end zone for a second time, a 27-yard pass from Ridder to Tre Tucker made it 17-0 at the half.
Drew Pyne, the Fighting Irish’s third quarterback, to see the field checked in early into their scoreless third quarter. A four-play 38-yard drive took just over two minutes to get the Fighting Irish on the board for the first time, marking the first score of the second half.
“You’re [going to] play the right way, or you’re not [going to] play. Period,” said Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly at halftime.
The Irish’s green-out crowd seemingly felt the same message, as they came back to life in the second half to give Notre Dame a resounding sense of hope. A Drew Pyne 32-yard passing touchdown added to the green-energy and briefly narrowed the Bearcats' lead to 17-13, following an Irish missed extra point.
However, the Irish showed up too little too late, as the Bearcat’s answered and found the endzone for the third time off a Ridder rushing touchdown. The Bearcats advanced to 4-0, setting the Irish back to 4-1.
Notre Dame travels to Virginia Tech next Saturday and the Bearcat’s return to Cincinnati to begin conference play against Temple University on Oct. 8.