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When the UCF Knights (3-3) took the field to face the #3 Cincinnati Bearcats (6-0) as 20-point underdogs, Knight fans were hoping for a David and Goliath story that ended in an upset. That would not come to pass as UCF was dominated, 56-21
Followers of the black and gold were uplifted by the return of running back Isaiah Bower from injury during warm-ups. Unfortunately, backup Mikey Keene was making his third career start for the injured Dillon Gabriel, top receiver Jaylon Robinson was still missing and their top defensive player Kalia Davis is out for the year.
Matters were made worse for UCF head coach Gus Malzahn and his team as they were forced to go three and out to open the game. Punter Andrew Osteen struggled to connect solidly on his first two kicks that only covered 34 yards combined.
Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell and the Bearcats took advantage of his defense’s performance and the short field quickly with Desmond Ridder at the helm. Running back Jerome Ford capped their first two touchdown drives with short runs within two yards of the goal line. They were up 14-0 after one quarter of play and the Bearcats never looked back.
The offense and defense executed the complementary football that coach Fickell has preached throughout the season. Ridder completed 13-of-23 with 140 yards and one touchdown but Ford was the main attraction as he delivered 189 yards on 20 carries for four touchdowns.
Credit should also go to the Bearcats’ defense for holding UCF to only 296 yards of total offense with three takeaways including a pick-six by Coby Bryant.
For the Knights, Keene turned in 16-of-27 for 141 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Bowser was also limited to 27 yards on 13 carries. UCF did manage to take the ball away defensively; thanks to a forced fumble by Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste that was recovered by Josh Celiscar.
Coach Malzahn praised the Cincinnati defense in the post-game press conference.
“They can really put pressure rushing the passer. They’re a good defense. When they play man, they challenge you. You got to be able to run the football and have some explosive plays and we weren’t able to do that,” stated Malzahn.
Following this second conference loss, Friday night marks an opportunity for UCF to come up to .500 in American league play, hosting the Memphis Tigers at the Bounce House in Orlando at 7:00 pm EST.