UCF Vs. Cincinnati: A Midwest Mauling

UCF and Cincinnati are two teams with two vastly different outlooks in 2021. The Bearcats have rose to the #3 ranking in the country, and now the goal is for them is to figure out how to keep their spot. On the other hand, UCF is battered with injuries which has compromised their season. As a top-3 team in the FBS, there is an expectation to dominate in these types of games. Cincinnati would indeed dominate in this game and then some, with a 56-21 score.

Cincinnati RB UCF
Cincinnati running back Jerome Ford (24) carries the ball as he breaks a tackle against UCF linebacker Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste, right, during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Cincinnati. Aaron Doster/AP

Cincinnati’s Offense

Although quarterback Desmond Ridder has been receiving Heisman hype, this game was not the Ridder show. In fact, the senior Ridder struggled to start the game, completing just six of his first 12 passes. He was able to tally a touchdown pass in the first half, throwing the ball up for Alec Pierce to put them up 21-0. The passing attack struggled outside that moment, however. Only Leonard Taylor and Tyler Scott were able to catch multiple passes on Saturday. In contrast, six receiver caught 2 or more balls in their blowout of Temple.

It is a good thing they had Jerome Ford carrying the football on Saturday. After running for a career-high 149 yards in their win against Temple, Ford followed up with an even more impressive showing. The transfer from Alabama totaled 189 yards on 20 carries, with 4 touchdowns on the day, all coming in the first half. Most notably, Ford broke free for a 79-yard scamper that helped Cincinnati break the game open to a 28-0 deficit.

How Cincinnati Kept UCF In Check

It was a rough day at the office for the UCF Golden Knights offense. In the first half specifically, very little that the UCF offense tried worked out well. In the first half, UCF could only put together drives of 5, 14, 7, 2, -1, 5, and -3. They ended that rough streak with a 75-yard touchdown drive to close the half. While they were able to string together more offense in the second half, including two touchdown drives, it was way too little too late.

The Cincinnati defense did not make life any easier for UCF’s offense, either. At the end of halftime, UCF hadn’t reached 100 yards as an offense. The running game was kept in check all day. Isaiah Bowser and Johnny Richardson were only able to combine for 47 yards on 23 carries (2.04 YPC). Cincinnati’s defense tallied six tackles for loss on the day. With the running game being rendered a non-factor, true freshman Mikey Keene struggled. With starting QB Dillon Gabriel out with an injury, QB play continues to be rocky for UCF. In this game, Keene threw for 141 yards on 16 completions, 1 TD to 2 interceptions. Overall, Keene’s QBR only totaled to 31.4 on a scale of 0-100. Cincinnati’s secondary also did their part. Notably, corner Coby Bryant returned an interception 74 yards for a score in the third quarter.

UCF-Cincinnati Final Thoughts

With Iowa’s loss to Purdue on Saturday, it is likely that Cincinnati will take the #2 spot in the next poll. Although head coach Luke Fickell said that he did not care about “style points,” they will be important. With the AAC not being as powerful of a conference as the Power 5 groups, every win will need to be as impressive as possible to keep their spot. It is good to see the Bearcats have a dominating win in a game where Ridder was more of a game manager. And Ford stepped up for his breakout performance as well.

This is the most we have seen UCF struggle in quite a while. In addition to Gabriel, they lost a starting defensive lineman, Kalia Davis, for the season in the previous game. Receiver Jaylon Robinson is also missing time. This team has been more inconsistent than fans have grown accustomed to lately, and this might continue to be the trend this year. Gus Malzahn and company have a rocky road ahead of them.

Cincinnati will travel to Maryland to take on Navy next Saturday. UCF will head back to campus and welcome Memphis on Saturday as well.

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