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Knee-Jerk Reactions: #3 Cincinnati 56, UCF 21

The Knights could not keep up with the third ranked Bearcats

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Cincinnati
UCF WR Nate Craig-Myers
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The UCF Knights and Cincinnati Bearcats have become a heated rivalry over the last few years. While the last two were close games, this one was not as the Bearcats jumped ahead early and never looked back en route to a 56-21 blowout win. It’s knee-jerk reaction time.

The offense was flat out outclassed

This isn’t a dig on the offense so much as a compliment to the Cincinnati defense. Coming into the game, the Bearcats were loaded with defensive stars like “Sauce” Gardner and Deshawn Pace. UCF needed the running game to get going in order to have a chance and they went nowhere. In fact, outside of a 51-yard end-around by Ryan O’Keefe, the first half had 4 yards rushing. The passing game wasn’t much better. Keene was unable to establish any real rhythm. In the first half, he went 9/16 vs 9/15 for Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, but Ridder threw for 117 yards while Keene only got 44 yards. The second half was a mixed bag. Keene threw a pick-six on a telegraphed pass but was able to connect on passes in the medium and deep thirds. He still is struggling in the middle and deep thirds, but he needs to keep at it. Granted, the margin of error against this defense is very small, the experience of playing against a defense that isn’t your own at game speed is invaluable. This is the 6th ranked defense efficiency.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Cincinnati
UCF WR Ryan O’Keefe
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati is for real

Despite some fans trying to talk trash, this Bearcats team is for real. They’re definitely a CFP contender. Running Jerome Ford ran wild against the Knights, gaining 189 yards on 20 carries. He had four touchdowns in the first half. Ford took a backseat in the second half and other players got some playing time, but the damage was done. Cincinnati’s running game was very effective against a defensive front that was missing Kalia Davis. Davis’ season was ended by a torn ACL last week. Overall, the Bearcats ran for 333 yards on the ground.

The defense did a pretty good job containing Desmond Ridder. Ridder has always had accuracy issues and this year had been his best in his career. The UCF secondary continued their run of good play after keeping ECU’s Holton Ahlers in check last week.

Syndication: The Enquirer
UCF DB Divaad Wilson
Albert Cesare / The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Bearcats outgained the Knights 476-296. They also won the third-down conversion ratio 7/12 vs 7/17. In an odd twist, the Knights had the ball longer, 32:48 vs 27:12. This is a stat you would not have seen in recent years.

Special team SNAFUs

After a good makeup game against ECU, the special teams took a dive. It started when punter Andrew Osteen had his first punt tipped, deflecting it to only 8 yards and leading to a Cincinnati touchdown. He then followed it up with another shorter punt. His punts improved after that, but it helped establish strong Bearcat momentum the Knights could not recover from. Amari Johnson muffed a punt and the Bearcats turned that into a touchdown in the second half. On the ensuing kickoff, Johnny Richardson didn’t feel it cleanly and ended up being tackled inside their own 10-yard line. Unlike the Navy game, the game wasn’t decided by special teams mistakes, but these mistakes need to be worked on before UCF continues their season.

On to Memphis

Cincinnati is in a league of its own compared to the teams UCF has faced so far. Memphis is not. At 3-3, UCF is still playing for a bowl game. They need three more wins and it starts with Memphis. The Friday night matchup at the Bounce House will establish the momentum for the rest of the season. It’s also the Space Game, so expect plenty of internal hype going into that game.

Stat Leaders

UCF: Mikey Keene: 16/27 for 141 yards, 1 TD, 2 Int
CIN: Desmond Ridder: 13/23 for 140 yards, 1 TD, 0 Int

UCF: Ryan O’Keefe: 1 carry for 51 yards, 0 TD
CIN: Jerome Ford: 20 carries for 189 yards, 4 TD

UCF: Ryan O’Keefe: 7 catches for 60 yards, 0 TD
CIN: Leonard Taylor: 4 catches for 47 yards, 0 TD

Game Notes

  • Cincinnati leads the series 4-3
  • Sorry it’s not my best, but I caught up ranting and raving about uniforms on Knight Shift.