UC football vs Indiana

University of Cincinnati's Ahmad Gardner(1) held Indiana University's Ty Fryfogle(3), a top receiver in college football, to only one reception.

Despite traveling to Indiana University and emerging victorious in a 38-24 victory, the University of Cincinnati (UC) football team still has a lot to work on for the ultimate goal of competing for the College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship. The Indiana matchup marked the second game in a row where UC displayed an undesirable first-half performance.

This is not to say that the Bearcats didn’t deserve to win; they did. The defense displayed coverage as good as any school in the country, forcing Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to go 17-40 on passing completions. One of the best wide receivers in the country, Indiana’s Ty Fryfogle, was held to one reception the entire game for 13 yards. Tag that along with the defense's three interceptions, and the proof is there that this Bearcat defense is a force to be reckoned with. 

Cincinnati’s defense wasn’t the problem in the first half, though. It was the slow-starting offense, the same offense that went into halftime tied with Murray State a week ago. 

The first half in Bloomington saw the Bearcats convert just one of their seven third-down attempts, punting four times along the way. The running backs for the Bearcats were caught on their back foot early in the game as well, accumulating only 28 yards in the first half.      

The first-half woes resulted in a 14-0 deficit at one point in the game, something that must be commended to the Bearcats for digging out of. Quarterback Desmond Ridder responded to his 12-23 passing completion in the first half by going 8-13 in the second, and posing a terrifying rush threat to the Indiana defense. Ridder had 45 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in the outing.

Ridder wasn’t the only Bearcat rushing with a full head of steam in Bloomington, running back Jerome Ford had two touchdowns on 66 yards. 

With the way the Bearcats performed after the call, it would be unfair to the Hoosiers to let Micah McFadden go unmentioned. McFadden, one of the Hoosiers best defenders, was ejected for a targeting call before the Bearcats had scored and has been a point of controversy throughout post-game discussions. The ejection was undoubtedly a massive turning point for the Bearcats offense. 

If the focus turns solely towards the Bearcat’s second half, a reasonable argument could be made that they can battle with any team in the country. Top teams around the country have had fluctuating performances, including UC’s next opponent, Notre Dame, who has featured in two sweat-breaking battles over their last two games. 

Notre Dame snuck away with a last-minute 32-29 victory over Toledo two weeks ago and had their prowess put to the test in a 27-13 win against Purdue over the weekend. Their schedule doesn’t get any easier, either, as they take on No. 18 Wisconsin next week leading to Cincinnati.

Cincinnati put Notre Dame on the schedule for a reason; to show the country that the Bearcats are a legitimate force in College Football and deserve the rankings they are receiving. If the Bearcats show up to South Bend, Indiana, and play as they did in the first half against the Hoosiers, it could get ugly for UC. However, if Cincinnati arrives with the second-half heat that knocked Indiana down a pedestal, the Bearcats will have a better chance than ever to defeat the Fighting Irish and proclaim. 

On Oct. 2, the Bearcats will be showing the country on the brightest stage that they deserve to be where they are.