ARLINGTON, TX (AP) – Desmond Ridder wanted to make sure he was one of the last Cincinnati players to leave the field so the quarterback could savor what was left of a loss to Alabama, the first in the CFP semi-final, Cotton Bowl.
The Bearcats’ breakthrough held up rather well as the non-Power Five first team in the playoffs. Ridder’s offense came to a halt too often on Friday trying to match an overpowered Crimson Tide running game in a 27-6 loss that ended the last season unbeaten in FBS.
“We weren’t carrying the flag for anyone other than ourselves,” Ridder said. “We all wanted it to end differently and we wish it had ended differently. Hopefully there will be other so-called Group of Five teams or teams from any conference that can advance to the playoffs and show that they can compete with the best of the best.
Cincinnati (13-1) still had a chance when Bryan Cook intercepted the pass from Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young near midfielder with Alabama leading by 11 at the end of the third quarter.
Ridder and the Bearcats retreated from there, and the Crimson Tide (13-1) extended the lead to 24-6 on the next possession after avoiding a three-and-out converting to third and 16. .
“It was a bit of a disappointment that we couldn’t perform the way we wanted, that we couldn’t go out there and really play some complementary football,” Ridder said. “Then you know it was joy, it was seeing all these Bearcat fans, seeing all the fans in the stands that stayed until the end. It was a surreal moment.
The Bearcats (No.4 in the Associated Press and CFP rankings) were held without a touchdown for the first time since a 42-0 loss to Ohio State in Game 2 of 2019. It was also the last time they were touched. they were playing a summit. five opponent.
The numbers didn’t favor the first non-Power Five school in the upcoming playoffs, and didn’t look much better afterward against a powerful program heading into the championship game for the sixth time in the eight years of the playoffs. four-team playoffs. format.
Cincinnati averaged 2.8 yards per game while trailing 17-3 at halftime. Alabama had 302 yards at halftime when the Bearcats came in allowing 305 per game.
Brian Robinson Jr., a fifth-year senior in Alabama, played his career-first 200-yard game, finishing with 204 of the Crimson Tide’s 301 rushing yards, a season-high.
“I think we absolutely belong to this game,” said linebacker Joel Dublanko. “But at the end of the day, we just haven’t performed like we’ve been doing all season.”
While the Bearcats never really threatened to win, they didn’t let Alabama embarrass them amid the debate over whether non-Power Five teams would make the playoffs.
“I’m not feeling well right now,” said coach Luke Fickell. “But I promise you my wife will make me later tonight try to take a few deep breaths and recognize where these guys have taken us.”
Cincinnati’s best chance to get into the end zone came on his first possession, when Alec Pierce was open on the goal line on a first pass from Alabama 9 but linebacker Henry To’oTo’o knocked him down on the line of scrimmage. .
The Bearcats settled for the first of two field goals – their only goal – before three straight three-and-outs. The second practice to a basket began the second half, and the next good scoring chance came down on runs inside the Alabama 25 on one of Ridder’s six sacks.
With the game out of reach at the end of the fourth quarter, the Bearcats failed again on the fourth down. Ridder’s pass was incomplete as he finished 17 of 32 for 144 yards for his first under 100 score of the season (90.9).
Cincinnati had over 30 seniors while going from a New Years Six Bowl loss to Georgia on a last-second field goal last season in the groundbreaking run this year.
The Bearcats will pick up a reshuffled squad next season, trying to extend a 20-game winning streak in the regular season to go with a pair of wins in American Athletic Conference championship games.
“I don’t think you should ever forget the feeling it’s like when you fail,” Fickell said. “I know about myself, I know about a lot of the guys out there who are built the same way. It will be the incredible motivation to take the next step and take the next step with a lot of new guys.
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