Alex Frank | Sports Director
After two impressive wins away from home to open the 2018 season, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats football team returns home this Saturday night for their home opener at Nippert Stadium against Alabama A&M University.
“I’m just ready to get back in ‘the Nip’ and bring everybody out,” junior linebacker Bryan Wright said. “I like the atmosphere in it. [The fans] bring a lot of energy, they provide a lot of energy to us and we just feed off it.”
The energy will likely be at a high level, which is what the feeling around the entire football program has been as a result of Cincinnati’s 2-0 start.
“I feel like it’s going to be a lot different,” Wright said. “Last Saturday, I felt the difference in the student section and just the crowd being there, so I can only imagine being back in Nippert.”
The Bearcats overcame treacherous weather conditions last Saturday to defeat their arch-rivals, the Miami (OH) University Redhawks, 21-0 for the 13th consecutive time in the Battle for the Victory Bell series.
“I think that’s honestly a feat in of itself,” Fickell said referring to the 13th straight win over Miami (OH). “Those guys respect the rivalry, they respect their opponent and they prepared that way. I think that’s what gave us the chance to be as successful as we were and play the way we did.”
Freshman quarterback Desmond Ridder impressed once again Saturday night against Miami (OH) as he rushed for a team-high 100 yards while also throwing his first NCAA touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
Ridder has been the primary QB of the Bearcats offense since the third series of their season opener at UCLA when he took over for senior Hayden Moore and he was named the player of the game after last week’s win over the Redhawks.
Fickell said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, though, that Moore is still going to get opportunities.
“We’ll have a plan this week and what situation is it,” Fickell said. “They both deserve it. It’s not like we’re saying, ‘hey we’re exclusive now.’ When you’re only two games into the season, there’s not many years you’re going to go through it with only one quarterback.”
The focal point of the Bearcats offense so far, though, has been sophomore running back Michael Warren II.
The Toledo, Ohio native has found the end zone five times through the Bearcats’ first two games while also getting most of the offensive load with 64 combined carries.
“It’s a long year, it’s a long season.” Fickell said in response to being okay with Warren’s workload. “We got a lot of really talented backs. Mike can handle it, but I don’t think that’s where we want to be because we want Mike to be able to play his best ball down the stretch.”
Cincinnati continues to push on without last year’s team-leader in rushing yards in senior Gerrid Doaks, who is still dealing with a groin injury.
Not looking too far head but three of the Bearcats final four games of the season are against Navy, South Florida and Central
Both schools from the Sunshine State finished the with 10+ wins, including UCF finishing undefeated with a victory in the Peach Bowl.
For now, though, Cincinnati has its attention turned to Alabama A&M, a team Cincinnati has only faced once before when the Bearcats were victorious 52-10.
Saturday’s game will get underway at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN3.