University of Cincinnati Football News: #3/4 Bearcats hosts dangerous UCF Knights under Gus Malzahn

Nippert Stadium from above (courtesy UC Sports Communications)

UC is one of only two teams in the nation ranked in the Top 10 in scoring offense and scoring defense

CINCINNATI – The No. 3/4-ranked Cincinnati football team puts its 23-game home winning streak (second-longest in the nation) on the line on Saturday at Noon when the UCF Knights come to Nippert Stadium.
The game is sold out and fans are encouraged to wear red for the game.
The Bearcats (5-0) have rocketed up the polls after winning back-to-back road games by double digits at Indiana (38-24) and at No. 9 Notre Dame (24-13) before coming home to open American Athletic Conference play with a 52-3 victory over Temple last Friday night.
Running back Jerome Ford led the way against the Owls, rushing for 149 yards and two touchdowns, including a 75-yard score, en route to AAC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
The No. 3 ranking in the AP Poll is the highest in school history.

UCF (3-2) edged past East Carolina last Saturday, 20-16, to break a two-game losing streak. The Knights have been a power in the American in recent years, winning the league’s championship in 2017 and 2018, and vaulting up to as high as No. 8 in the polls. UCF has a first-year head coach in Gus Malzahn, who spent the previous eight years guiding Auburn. The Knights have an explosive offense and are averaging 36.8 points and 469 yards per contest, but lost star quarterback Dillon Gabriel to injury at Louisville early in the season.  

“I think they are a very talented football team,” Fickell said. “They still have a lot of skill. I think they’re really strongest up front with some veteran guys on the O-line and D-line. They have a new coach in (Gus) Malzahn in his first year. It’s not his first rodeo. He’s done this for a long time. I think they’ve had to adapt and adjust obviously with a new quarterback a little bit. I don’t think they’ve changed who they are and I think defensively, in my mind, they’re a much more sound team than they were the last couple years and with the players they’ve got it makes them really difficult.”

Saturday’s game will be televised nationally on ABC with Bob Wischusen (PxP), Dan Orlovsky (Analyst) and Kris Budden (sideline) on the broadcast. Fans can also listen on the Bearcats Sports Network on 700 WLW-AM and on satellite radio (Sirus Ch. 113, XM 201) with Dan Hoard (PxP) and Jim Kelly Jr. (Analyst) calling the action. 

Fans are encouraged to wear red and look for the College Football Playoff Trophy, which will be at The Grid at 8 a.m. and at Sheakley Lawn from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. during pregame.

Cincinnati is 36-6 (.857) since the start of 2018 and sports a 14-1 record since the start of 2020 with the Bearcats only loss over the last 22 months coming by three points, 24-21, to current-No. 1 Georgia in the 2020 Peach Bowl. The Bearcats have jumped out to a 5-0 record in 2021 and own one of the nation’s top resumes thanks to a pair of double-digit road wins over non-conference opponents. UC defeated No. 9 Notre Dame, 24-13, in South Bend, Ind., two weeks after taking out Indiana, 38-24, in Bloomington, Ind. UC’s strength of record (outcomes + strength of schedule) is No. 7 in the nation. Cincinnati has the nation’s best red zone defense (42.9%, 6 of 14) and the Bearcats are one of just two teams (joining Coastal Carolina) that rank in the Top 10 nationally in scoring offense (41.0, 9th) and scoring defense (12.2, 2nd). UC is +8 in turnover margin and ranks fifth nationally with nine INTs. Cincinnati is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 48% of their passes – first in the nation.
Senior quarterback Desmond Ridder is one of the nation’s top players and the leader of the Cincinnati offense. The Louisville, Ky., native is that nation’s winningest quarterback with a 35-5 career record. He surpassed 10,000 yards of total offense and 8,000 career passing yards against Temple. In 2021, he has passed for 1,304 yards and 12 TDs on 95 of 145 pass attempts (65.5%) to go along with 114 rushing yards and three scores on the ground. He leads the AAC in QBR (73.7) and is the nation’s highest-graded QB in the fourth quarter (93.9, according to PFF College). He was named the Davey O’Brien National QB of the Week after his 323-total yard, 3-TD performance to lead UC to its first ever win over a Top 10 team on the road at Notre Dame.


  • The crowd of 37,978 matched the season-opener as the 10th-largest crowd in Nippert Stadium history.
  • It marked the Bearcats’ eighth-straight win against AAC opponents, second-straight win against Temple and 20th straight in black jerseys.
  • Cincinnati is 12-1 in its last 13 night games at Nippert Stadium.
  • The Bearcats are 21-3 (.875) in the past three years against AAC opponents, which is the best mark in the conference.
  • UC held Temple  to 3 points, which is the fewest by an opponent since Nov. 9, 2019 against UCONN (48-3).
  • Sparked by Jerome Ford’s 75-yard TD run, Cincinnati scored 28 third quarter points.
  • Sophomore RB Ethan Wright scored the first TD of his career on a 58-yard rush.
  • The BlackCats defense only allowed 234 total yards, which is the lowest total of the year and fewest since UC gave up only 164 yards versus Boston College in a 38-6 win in the 2020 Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 2, 2020. It’s the fewest total yards from an opponent in a conference game since allowing 218 versus UConn in 2019.

CB Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner had the play of the game as a true freshman in Cincinnati’s 27-24 win over UCF the last time these two teams played in the Queen City on Oct. 5, 2019. Gardner’s 16-yard pick-six in the third quarter gave the Bearcats a lead they would not give up as UC ended UCF’s 19-game conference winning streak and 31-game streak of scoring 30+. Head Coach Luke Fickell had Gardner address his teammates in the locker room after the win. “We brought him up to say a few words, and we had to cut him off,” Fickell quipped after the win.

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