UH falls to Cincinnati in AAC Championship Game
CINCINNATI — A third-quarter implosion from No. 21 UH plagued the Cougars as they fell 35-20 to No. 4 Cincinnati in the 2021 American Athletic Conference Championship Game on Friday night at Nippert Stadium.
With the win, Cincinnati improves to 13-0 and will likely become the first Group of Five team to reach the College Football Playoff come Sunday afternoon.
On the game’s opening drive, UH got deep into Cincinnati territory on a couple of big passes from junior quarterback Clayton Tune before the drive stalled out.
The Cougars settled for a 37-yard field goal attempt which senior kicker Dalton Witherspoon drilled.
Cincinnati wasted no time on its opening possession. Quarterback Desmond Ridder picked the UH secondary apart, going 4-4 for 76 yards capped off with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Scott to give the Bearcats a 7-3 lead.
The Cougars offense responded, driving deep into Cincinnati territory after converting a pair of third-and-10’s before Tune found sophomore receiver Nathaniel Dell for a 16-yard touchdown to put UH back on top.
Cincinnati needed just one play to retake the lead as running back Jerome Ford took the ball 79 yards to the house on the first play of the Bearcats drive.
The two teams combined for 316 yards of total offense in the first quarter
While the first quarter was an offensive explosion by both teams, the second quarter was all about the two defenses.
Early in the second quarter, the Cougars put points on the board for the third time as Witherspoon split the uprights from 46 yards out.
Witherspoon’s kick were the only points scored by either team in the quarter, as both defenses stepped up and began to make plays.
Cincinnati took a 14-13 lead into the locker room.
The third quarter was a nightmare for UH.
After the Bearcats opened up the second half with a long drive deep into UH territory, it appeared like the Cougars’ defense came up with a huge stop of fourth-and-3, but a late flag for pass interference on senior cornerback Marcus Jones gave Cincinnati new life.
The Bearcats capitalized on the extension to the drive as Ridder found Leonard Taylor for a 7-yard score.
On the first play of UH’s opening drive of the second half, Cincinnati linebacker Joel Dublanko picked off Tune, setting the Bearcats up in Houston territory.
The Cincinnati offense took advantage of the good field position as Ridder connected with Alec Pierce from 21 yards out for the Bearcats second touchdown in 58 seconds.
Cincinnati extended its lead on the next drive. Ford broke loose for the second time on the night, walking into the end zone untouched from 42 yards out.
Dell came up with the biggest play of the second half midway through the fourth quarter, taking a third-down pass 53 yards, making multiple Cincinnati defenders miss to set up UH’s only score of the half, which came on a 7-yard reception from senior receiver Jake Herslow.
Tune was sacked eight times on the night