No. 25 Cincinnati defends new ranking at Houston

Field Level Media

October 08, 2019 at 7:10 pm.

The Cincinnati Bearcats answered a lopsided loss at fifth-ranked Ohio State with three consecutive victories, including an upset of UCF that propelled the team into the Top 25.

The 25th-ranked Bearcats (4-1 overall, 1-0 AAC) aim to continue their good fortune on Saturday when they play their first conference road game against the Houston Cougars (2-3, 0-1).

Cincinnati is riding high after securing its first win over a ranked opponent since 2009 — last Friday’s 27-24 upset of the 18th-ranked Knights.

“What an incredible night, not just for us as a football program. It means the world,” said Bearcats defensive-minded head coach Luke Fickell.

Cincinnati forced four turnovers and held the high-powered Knights to fewer than 30 points for the first time in 31 games, highlighted by freshman cornerback Ahmad Gardner’s 16-yard interception return for a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.

Cornerback Cam Jefferies and linebacker Jarell White each had an interception, and defensive end Michael Pitts added a fumble recovery for Cincinnati, which capped the win by converting a fourth-and-1 at midfield in the final minute.

“I guess there’s no sweeter way to seal the deal against a team that’s the best in the league, been the best the last two years,” Fickell said. “The only way you’re going to knock off the best is to continue to be aggressive. The only way you beat the best is to take those chances.”

Sophomore quarterback Desmond Ridder continued his hot hand by throwing for two scores against UCF. A week earlier, he was chosen as AAC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing four touchdown passes in the Bearcats’ 52-14 romp over Marshall on Sept. 28.

Michael Warren II averaged a robust 5.8 yards per carry against the Knights on his way to a season-high 133 yards, marking the second time in three games that the junior has reached triple digits.

Houston is rested after enjoying an open week following its 46-25 victory at North Texas on Sept. 28. Patrick Carr highlighted the win by busting loose for a 68-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the game. He added 2- and 12-yard scoring runs in the second half.

Sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune completed 16 of 20 passes for 124 yards and rushed for 100 yards in his third career start. He was forced into starting action this season when star senior D’Eriq King announced he would redshirt after playing in the first four games.

“I’m expecting him to continue to get better,” Cougars coach Dana Holgorsen said of Tune. “I thought that was a really good opening start for him.”

Tune tweaked his hamstring late against the Mean Green, although Holgorsen dismissed any questions about his availability by saying “he’s fine” heading into practice this week.

The health of key members of the offensive line is in question, however.

Right tackle Jarrid Williams (undisclosed) and right guard Justin Murphy (knee) are nursing injuries while redshirt freshman Jack Freeman was summoned to make his first career start at center for Braylon Jones, who will miss the remainder of the season with a right shoulder injury.

Williams started against North Texas before being replaced by Dixie Wooten III, while Dennis Bardwell got the nod in favor of the injured Murphy at right guard.