In their last regular-season game of the year, the No. 4 University of Cincinnati (UC) Bearcat’s stole the show of a second opponents’ senior night, defeating East Carolina University (7-5) 35-13. The win marks back-to-back undefeated regular seasons for UC.
Cincinnati also secured home-field advantage for the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Championship game on Dec. 4, meaning the University of Houston (10-1) will travel to Nippert Stadium.
“There will be a lot of emotion, a lot of energy for them, not just because of senior day, but because we’re on to a bowl game and have a lot of momentum within the program,” said Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell prior to facing ECU.
After an early burst of energy and emotion to start the game for ECU, Cincinnati took control and deflated the Pirates senior night energy in the second quarter, with only a few glimpses of Pirates hope coming back in the second half.
After throwing for 405 yards last week against Navy, ECU quarterback, Holton Ahlers was held to 62 passing yards in the first half. While Ahlers strugglers remained persistent, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder threw for 243 yards in the first half while picking up his 26th and 27th passing touchdown.
After being sacked twice on his opening drive and a scoreless first quarter, Ridder threw for his 26th touchdown on the season, taking the Bearcats first lead early in the second quarter while handing tight end Leonard Taylor his third touchdown of the season.
Ridder allowed the Pirates to sack him twice on the evening, while also handing them his seventh and eighth interception of the season.
While being continuously referred to as a rising prospect for the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce secured his seventh touchdown on the year in route to 136 receiving yards on just eight receptions.
Cincinnati running back, Jerome Ford, who rushed for 83 yards, extended the Bearcat’s lead to 14-3 in the second quarter off his 17th rushing touchdown of the season.
Fickell, who has continuously reiterated the importance of his team playing their best ball at the end of the season, seemingly had his message heard by his Bearcats who handled the road atmosphere of ECU without any major hiccups.
With 38,014 fans in attendance for the Pirates senior night, the Bearcats were facing a crowd searching for any reason to erupt Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Week after week Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “SAUCE” Gardner is avoided by opposing quarterbacks due to his track record of not allowing a single touchdown in his three seasons of play. ECU tested him, only to find the same result.
With the next play, Gardner took an Arquan Bush blocked field goal 60 yards for his first touchdown of the season, extending the Bearcats lead by 22.
Despite all the adversities of playing on the road, Fickell’s Bearcat’s handled business and are onto the post season. Cincinnati now has their sights set on securing their 12th AAC championship as they host Houston on Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. on ABC.
After coming in at No. 4 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, the 13-member committee will re-evaluate Cincinnati’s ranking on Nov. 30 at 7 p.m.