No. 8 Cincinnati meets Indiana after “some adversity”

Field Level Media

September 14, 2021 at 9:01 pm.

Indiana expects another shot at a ranked opponent will yield better results and get its season back on track.

The Hoosiers (1-1) host No. 8 Cincinnati (2-0) on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, where Indiana has gone 8-2 since the start of the 2019 season.

Indiana faces its highest-ranked non-conference opponent since playing at home against No. 2 USC on Sept. 19, 1981.

After losing at No. 5 Iowa 34-6 to start the season, Indiana bounced back with a 56-14 victory in its home opener against Idaho. The Hoosiers scored two of their eight touchdowns on special teams — a blocked punt and 81-yard punt return for a touchdown by D.J. Matthews.

“You have an opportunity Week 1 (against Iowa), and we’re going to have many opportunities as you see the polls come out as the season unfolds to be able to play against top teams in the country,” Indiana football coach Tom Allen said. “And our schedule is full of them. And this is the next one.”

To seize that opportunity, Indiana will need a big game from quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who got back on track somewhat after throwing three interceptions in the Iowa loss. Penix completed 11-of-16 passes for 68 yards with two TDs passing and one TD rushing against Idaho before being pulled in the third quarter with the Hoosiers comfortably ahead.

“As far as progress from Week 1 to Week 2, I feel like we just executed better, executed at a (higher) level,” Penix said. “We just continued to play the full 60 minutes. We made sure that we didn’t let up.”

Cincinnati (2-0) is coming off a 42-7 win over Murray State. The Bearcats got off to a slow start offensively, with the game tied 7-all at halftime, before pulling away with 35 unanswered points in the second half.

“For us I think there’s nothing greater than having to handle some adversity,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. “In Week 1, we really didn’t have to handle any adversity, kind of came out and played the way we wanted to play, and the only way to grow up is to have some adversity.”

Quarterback Desmond Ridder has picked up where he left off last season, passing for 538 yards with six TDs and one interception in his first two games. Running back Jerome Ford has added 238 yards and four TDs on 7.8 yards per carry.

Speculation is swirling this week surrounding the status of Fickell, who has led Cincinnati to a 37-14 record and three straight bowl appearances entering his fifth season. Southern California coach Clay Helton was fired on Monday, and Mike Bohn, USC’s athletic director, hired Fickell when he was the athletic director at Cincinnati.

“I barely talk to my own family during the season,” Fickell said. “So I would never talk about it, nor would I even answer a phone call or anything like that. I know nothing, nor does it make me have any interest. It’s not a big deal. It’s nothing but distractions if people allow it to be, and for us, it can’t be.”