College Football Playoff No. 5 Cincinnati defeats South Florida Bulls, 45-28
TAMPA, Fla. (Cincinnati Enquirer) - The University of Cincinnati fifth-year senior quarterback Desmond Ridder came back for another season in part to chase down UC passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Gino Guidugli’s records.
On Friday night, Ridder caught one.
Ridder threw his 79th career touchdown pass, the most in program history, as the Cincinnati Bearcats defeated South Florida 45-28 to spoil the Bulls’ senior night at Raymond James Stadium.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Ridder, who conducted his postgame news conference while clutching the record-setting ball. “I told everyone in the locker room that this ball and this record wasn’t just me. It was all the athletic trainers, Aaron (Himmler), Michele (Galvin), all my teammates who have been with me over the past four to five years, and all my coaches from four to five years to when I was a little boy. This is going to stay with me forever.”
Marking a rare appearance by a UC assistant coach in the postgame media session, Guidugli, who was Cincinnati’s starting quarterback from 2001-04, spoke on Ridder passing him in the record books.
“It’s just a tribute to him,” Guidugli said. “He’s had a great career here. Just his development from a freshman to what you’re seeing out there today. He’s the leader of this football team. He’s going to go out of this place being one of the greatest football players to ever play at our university. Just the satisfaction to know that I had a little something to do with it just makes it that much more special.”
Rare appearance by a Cincinnati Bearcats assistant after the game.— Keith Jenkins (@MrKeithJenkins) November 13, 2021
UC QB coach Gino Guidugli speaks on Desmond Ridder passing him for the most TD passes in school history (79).
"Let's keep piling them on there. Let's make it so that nobody else can catch it."@GinoGuidugli pic.twitter.com/safLgpck0y
Ridder’s record-setting throw came with 11:48 remaining in the third quarter. Ridder linked up with tight end Josh Whyle on a 21-yard gain. Whyle caught the ball in stride at the USF 2-yard line and then jogged across the goal line to give the Bearcats a commanding 31-7 lead.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t even know that that was the one right there,” Whyle said. “But we came off (the field) and people were talking about it. I just can’t be more happy for Des. It’s so deserving for him to get that. Everything that he’s dealt with on and off the field, and for him to be able to beat that record and celebrate with Coach Gino in the locker room, it’s just a special moment. I’m going to make sure we do something good for him this week. Take him out to dinner or something.”
Cincinnati (10-0, 6-0 American Athletic Conference), which is No. 5 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, allowed a season-high 28 points but held off USF (2-8, 1-5) enough to secure the victory and remain unbeaten.
The Bearcats will host SMU on Nov. 20 for their final regular-season home game. The kickoff time and network have yet to be announced.
After three straight shaky weeks, things again got bumpy for the defending AAC champions.
After a 13-play, 36-yard opening drive by the Bulls that ate up more than six minutes of clock, Ridder and the UC offense, which took the field without injured center Jake Renfro and injured running back and Tampa native Jerome Ford, got the ball and promptly fumbled on their first play from scrimmage.
Graduate wide receiver Michael Young Jr. caught a pass from Ridder for an 18-yard gain and then coughed it up as he was being tackled to the ground.
South Florida gave the ball right back on the very next play, but then Ridder threw an interception while trying to link up with wide receiver Alec Pierce.
USF cornerback Christian Williams tipped the pass and raced 61 yards before stepping out of bounds at the Cincinnati 2-yard line. The return set up the first score of the night, a two-yard rushing touchdown by Bulls running back Jaren Mangham with 7:08 to play in the first quarter.
Mangham finished with 16 carries, 53 yards and two scores. The junior now has 15 rushing touchdowns of the season, tied for second-most in a single campaign in USF history.
After throwing the early interception, Ridder settled down and so did the Cincinnati offense. UC running back Ryan Montgomery, who shared carries with fellow backups Charles McClelland and Ethan Wright, raced 12 yards and then spun into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 with 2:57 to play in the opening quarter.
Ridder completed 11 straight passes before running it in on quarterback keeper from 13 yards out to give Cincinnati its first lead with 9:36 to go before halftime.
Ridder completed 31 of 39 passes for 304 yards two touchdowns and the interception.
Under pressure, USF freshman quarterback Timmy McClain decided to test Cincinnati All-American cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. McClain failed. Gardner picked off McClain for his third interception of the season (ninth of his career).
“It was broken play, so the quarterback was trying to scramble out,” said Gardner, who also collected his second sack of the season on a corner blitz. “But I was trying to be a ball player and read his eyes, any keys he gave me that he was going to throw the ball in my direction. I didn’t expect the ball to come right to me, but I was just at the right place at the right time.
Gardner’s pick set up Cincinnati’s final score of the half. Ridder, who completed 13 straight passes at one point, connected with receiver Tre Tucker on a short 1-yard score to make it 21-7 at the 5:30 mark in the first half. The score marked the 78th of Ridder’s career, tying him with Guidugli.
Kicker Alex Bales knocked in a 27-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to send the Bearcats into the break with a commanding 24-7 lead.
But it was far from over.
“Yeah, we like to make things a little bit more interesting (than they need to be),” UC coach Luke Fickell said. “The defense played really well in the first half, like (allowing) 39 yards of offense, and then to come out in the second half and, I don’t know, we let up a little bit.”
After Ridder opened the second half with his record-setting 79th touchdown, the Bulls stormed back, posting back-to-back scores, including an 80-yard catch-and-go by wide receiver Jimmy Horn Jr. to bring USF within 31-21 with 3:48 to play in the third.
It was the longest offensive play of the season for South Florida.
The Bearcats countered with a 10-play, 73-yard drive capped by a 1-yard score by Wright to put UC ahead 38-21 with 14:00 left in the game.
McClain put a period on a 16-play, 98-yard drive with a 2-yard rushing touchdown to make it 38-28 with 6:14 remaining.
Montgomery put the game out of reach and picked up a few style points for the Bearcats with a 55-yard scamper through the goal line with just over a minute to play.
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