Alex Frank | Sports Director
The University of Cincinnati Bearcats football team is getting set for their final nonconference game Saturday against the Ohio University Bobcats at Nippert Stadium.
Ohio is the second team Cincinnati will have played out of the Mid-American Conference and from the Buckeye State.
“I’ve played against [Ohio] a few times in the past and every single one of them was a battle,” head coach Luke Fickell said. “I mean that in the sense of you can see their culture in their program, they’re a direct reflection of their head coach. It’s going to be tough, hard-fought, completely different than last week.”
The Bobcats are led by 14th-year head coach Frank Solich who has delivered four MAC East Division titles and nine bowl appearances with wins in three.
After finishing 9-4 last year and second in the division, Ohio was selected as the favorites to win both the East Division and the 2018 Marathon MAC Football Championship.
“They’re a balanced team,” Fickell said. “There’s not a flaw to them. If you look at across the board, they’re a great reflection of their head coach. They’re going to try and match our physicality, our attention to detail, the discipline. The things that we pride ourselves in are the same things they pride themselves in.”
Cincinnati is coming off a 63-7 drubbing of Alabama A&M University in their home opener last Saturday.
The win lifted them to their first 3-0 start since 2012 when they started 5-0.
After utilizing a run-based offense in two wins away from Nippert Stadium in the season’s first two weeks, the Bearcats used a lightning aerial attack to jump out to a 28-0 by the end of the first quarter.
The first 15 minutes saw three touchdown passes from freshman quarterback Desmond Ridder, who completed nine of his ten pass attempts for 199 yards.
“We want to be able to throw the football,” Fickell said. “We want to create balance in everything we do. Saturday night was an opportunity because [Alabama A&M] gave us a chance to throw the football.”
Fickell added that Ridder, despite people and around him gaining confidence in him, needs to gain confidence in himself.
The wide margin on the scoreboard allowed the Bearcats to insert the other three quarterbacks on the depth chart into the game as they helped accumulate 332 team passing yards, which were a part of the program-record 741 total offensive yards.
Cincinnati, overall, played a total of 92 players in Saturday’s win.
“It was a great opportunity for our program just to continue to develop,” Fickell said. “Thirty-five guys, I think, played for the first time. That’s a great opportunity for our program. Those are a lot of guys right there that are the future of the program that have an opportunity with this new rule, even the redshirt rule, to get out there and have a chance to play in front of that crowd and actually have a chance to play on a Saturday night when it really matters.”
While this Saturday’s game undoubtedly matters to the overall picture of the season, Fickell said it starts over when conference play begins.
Cincinnati will open the American Athletic Conference portion of their schedule at the University of Connecticut Saturday Sept. 29.
“The momentum that you create and the feel that you create not just in our program but in our community, especially the student body, those things go a long way,” Fickell said. “It obviously starts with respecting our opponent making sure you understand, know what’s going to walk in there and prepare for a battle, and this momentum and things can generate as we begin league play the following week.”
This week, though, is all about preparing for Ohio, a team the Bearcats have not faced since October of 1981 when Cincinnati defeated the Bobcats 19-9 to even the series history at 23 wins apiece.
Saturday’s match will get underway at noon E.T. from Nippert Stadium and will be televised nationally on ESPNU.