Sean McMahon | Staff Reporter
The University of Cincinnati Bearcats started off their 2018 season with an impressive 26-17 win on the road against the heavily favored University of California Los Angeles Bruins at the Rose Bowl Saturday night.
Aided by smart play calling and impressive numbers put up on both sides of the ball the Bearcats came out on top.
Cincinnati’s offense had a total of 194 yards on the ground and 110 yards through the air.
Freshman backup quarterback Desmond Ridder accounted for 63 of those rushing yards and 100 of the total passing yards after starting senior quarterback Hayden Moore struggled to give Cincinnati the offensive momentum the team needed in the first quarter.
“We expected to rotate series, but I didn’t know when that was,” Ridder said in an article written for Cincinnati.com by Cincinnati Enquirer sports reporter Tom Groeschen. “I was just always ready and prepared. I was a little nervous but once we got that first play snapped, then all the nerves went away and it was time to play ball.”
Ridder was 14 for 26 on pass attempts, a passing percentage of 53.8.
Sophomore running back Michael Warren II accounted for all three Cincinnati touchdowns with 35 carries for a total of 142 rushing yards and added 29 receiving yards.
“This is just unbelievable,” Warren said in Groeschen’s article. “It’s a dream come true, coming all this way to play in this historic stadium and play a good team. I’d say it was a team effort.”
Warren averaged 4.1 yards per carry and 9.7 yards per reception. Freshman wide receiver Jayshon Jackson was close behind Warren with 28 yards receiving.
Freshman kicker Cole Smith rose to the occasion by making all three extra points after every touchdown and a field goal from 24 yards out just before the end of the half to give Cincinnati a 17-10 lead.
The offense also showed their capability to convert on 4th down by converting on three of four fourth down conversion attempts.
Cincinnati’s defense struggled to stop the Bruins in the first quarter when UCLA scored 10 unanswered points. UC’s defense, though, was able to keep the Bruins from scoring for the rest of the half allowing the offense to score 17 unanswered points of their own.
Sophomore safety James Wiggins intercepted a ball thrown by Bruins senior quarterback Wilton Speight halfway through the second quarter. That interception led to a Cincinnati touchdown, which helped give the Bearcats a 14-10 lead with just under seven minutes to go before the end of the first half.
In the third quarter the Bearcats defense gave up a 74-yard rushing touchdown to UCLA freshman running back Kashmir Allen.
UC’s defense, however, didn’t let that run get to their heads.
With under ten minutes left in the game junior linebacker Bryan Wright stripped the ball out of true-freshman quarterback backup quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s hands inside UCLA’s own 5-yard line.
UCLA’s Caleb Wilson recovered in the end zone and was tackled for a safety giving the Bearcats a 19-17 lead.
“My coach, right before we came out, told me to watch for play-action,” Wright said in Groeschen’s article. “I saw the tight end’s eyes, I looked where he was going, and I just beat him to the punch.”
The Bearcats defense was also able to keep UCLA from converting two 4th down attempts.
After a disappointing 4-8 record in 2017, Luke Fickell was finally able to show promise to Cincinnati to successfully coach a team to a big victory against a worthy opponent.
His aggressive style of play and confidence in his very young team gave the Bearcats a program-elevating win.
He stated before that he was not afraid to put highly-talented players on the field, even if they are young and inexperienced.
He knows that winning football games requires talent and am offensive line, which Cincinnati has shown it has plenty of talent and an up-and-coming offensive line.
“We want to be an offensive-line driven program, and I think we made a big statement tonight that that’s where we’re headed,” Fickell said in Groschen’s article.
The Bearcats will be back home in the Queen City as they take on arch-rival, the Miami (OH) University Redhawks, Saturday at 8 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium.