Cincinnati Football News: GAME PREVIEW: No. 20/19 Bearcats Awaits Another Road Challenge at Central Florida Knights

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati football team heads to Orlando, Fla., for a second straight league road test: this time against UCF on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Mark Jones, Robert Griffin III and Quint Kessenich will have the ESPN call for the second consecutive game, while Dan Hoard and Jim Kelly Jr. will carry the game on 700 WLW, as well as Sirius 99 or 204 and SXM App 967.

Cincinnati, the two-time defending American Athletic Conference champions, heads to Orlando, Fla., for a second straight league road test -this time against UCF. The Bearcats are coming off a 29-27 win at SMU in which kicker Ryan Coe drilled a school-record five field goals, running back Charles McClelland rushed for 129 yards and a 76-yard TD, and the Blackcats defense held SMU to season lows in total yards (259) and passing yards (179) for the second straight season.

Cincinnati became bowl eligible with the win over the Mustangs, while Luke Fickell became the winningest coach in school history with his 54th win as the Bearcats’ head coach. UC tied the AAC record with its 19th straight league victory, too. Cincinnati has won six straight and are ranked No. 20 in the AP poll and No. 19 in the AFCA Coaches poll – its highest rankings of the season. UC is 3-0 in the AAC.

Cincinnati and UCF have combined for four of the last five AAC Championships with the Knights winning back-to-back crowns in 2017 and 2018, and UC taking home the league crown in 2020 and 2021. UC is 20-10 on the road under Fickell (since 2017), but 10-1 since the start of 2020 with the only loss coming at Arkansas in 2022.


Give UC 18 consecutive AAC regular season wins and 20 wins overall versus AAC opponents (counting AAC Championships), which would break the conference records. UC is currently tied with UCF (2017-19) with 19 straight wins over AAC opponents. UCF’s record streak was stopped in Nippert Stadium by Cincinnati on Oct. 5, 2019 in a 27-24 win punctuated by then-true freshman cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner’s go-ahead pick-six.


The Bearcats have won three straight against the Knights, including a 56-21 victory in Cincinnati in 2021. UC jumped out a 35-0 lead behind 189 yards and four touchdowns from running back Jerome FordJosh Whyle blocked a punt and Coby Bryant had a pick-six in the resounding victory. UC won 36-33 in its last trip to Orlando in 2020 behind 11 combined catches from Whyle and Lenny Taylor, who both scored TDs and 338 yards and four total TDs from Desmond Ridder.


In 2021, the Bearcats left no doubt in a 56-21 Homecoming win over UCF. Current Browns rookie Jerome Ford ran for a career-high 189 yards and four touchdowns, and UC’s 336 on the ground marked the eighth time of the Fickell era it rushed for 300 or more.

The Bearcats led 35-0 at the half, outgaining the Knights 314-99. Ford matched a career-long 79-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, while Jim Thorpe Award winner Coby Bryant added a 74-yard pick-six. The win came on the heels of a 52-3 victory over Temple, marking the first time in school history that Cincinnati scored 50-plus in consecutive games.


Mason Fletcher’s first punt at SMU went for 84 yards, six more than the previous school-record (Mike Connell’s 78 against Louisiana-Lafayette in 1976). Not to be outdone, Ryan Coe connected on his first five field goal attempts (30, 25, 52, 44, 31) to get his own record. The last Bearcat with four was Andrew Gantz at Memphis in 2015. Coe was 4-for-7 entering the day, and the 52-yarder was his first attempt of 50-plus at UC. He made four of 50-plus at Delaware over the previous two years. Fletcher collected AAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for a second time, while Coe was named a Lou Groza Star of the Week.


Fickell was named to the 2022 Dodd Trophy Midseason Watch List. He won the 2021 Dodd Trophy. Senior linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. has been named to nearly every organization’s midseason All-America First Team, including the Associated Press, ESPN, The Athletic, and Pro Football Focus. He’s PFF’s highest graded linebacker (92.2) in 2022. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Dontay Corleone was named to the Athletic’s Midseason Freshman All-American team, while garnering midseason honorable mention accolades from Pro Football Focus. He has 22 tackles and 3.5 TFLs in 2022.


No defense in the country is wreaking more havoc with big plays than the Bearcats. Cincinnati leads the nation in TFLs (9.3), sacks per game (4.14), and defensive touchdowns (4). The Bearcats’ 11 sacks at Tulsa on Oct. 1 are the most against an FBS team this season and tied the AAC record. UC’s defense is third in the nation in yard per play (4.06), fifth in yards per carry (2.81) and No. 17 in total defense.


Redshirt senior tight end Josh Whyle has 75 career receptions for 928 yards and 14 touchdowns. His 14 TD catches are tied with former NFL star Brent Celek for the most in Cincinnati history by a tight end. Against SMU, he hauled in a career-long 35-yarder in addition to a thirddown conversion to allow UC to run out the clock.

Celek played for the Bearcats from 2003 to 2006. He made 91 catches for 1,135 yards and 14 scores before going on to an 11-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Other recent notable Cincinnati tight ends:
Travis Kelce (2010-12): 59 receptions, 875 yards, 10 TDs 
Josiah Deguara (2015-19): 92 receptions, 1,117 yards, 12 TDs