EditorsNote: Corrects to 133 yard(s) in graf 3; correct graf 8 to drive starting after punt; other minor edits
Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder tossed two touchdown passes, and the Bearcats’ defense forced visiting UCF into four turnovers in a 27-24 upset of the No. 18 Knights on Friday night.
The Bearcats outscored UCF 17-8 in the second half, notching a victory in their American Athletic Conference opener and snapping their three-game losing streak to UCF.
Ridder, sophomore, finished 17 of 31 for 149 yards and one interception and the two scores, and Michael Warren II rushed for 133 yards on 23 carries for the Bearcats (4-1, 1-0 AAC).
Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel was intercepted three times while completing 25 of 46 passes for 297 yards and a score. UCF junior receiver Gabriel Davis contributed his third consecutive 100-yard receiving game and set career highs in receptions (13) and yards (170).
The last conference loss for UCF (4-2, 1-1) was to South Florida on Nov. 26, 2016 — 17 consecutive AAC wins ago.
The Knights’ 31-game streak of scoring at least 30 points, which dated back to the start of the 2017 season, also ended.
In front of a boisterous blackout crowd at Nippert Stadium, the completely black-clad Bearcats allowed a 24-yard field goal to UCF kicker Dylan Barnas little more than three minutes in.
After the teams traded punts, Sam Crosa booted a 38-yard field for a 3-3 tie early in the second quarter.
Adrian Killins Jr. set up UCF with a 45-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, and Barnas pushed the Orlando school back out front 6-3 with a 22-yard field goal.
Cincinnati took advantage of a second miscue — a fumbled exchange — to take over at the UCF 19. Four plays later, Ridder scrambled before tossing a 5-yard touchdown to Trent Cloud for a 10-6 lead with 6:49 left in the half.
Barnas connected a third time, from 31 yards, with 3:52 left in the half before Tay Gowan intercepted a wobbly pass from Ridder after the quarterback’s hand was hit on the throw.
Greg McCrae’s 1-yard touchdown run four plays later put UCF up 16-10 at halftime.
UCF made a defensive stand inside its red zone to open the second half, and the Bearcats settled for a 26-yarder from Crosa to get within 16-13.
Freshman cornerback Ahmad Gardner returned an interception 16 yards for a score to give the home side a 20-16 lead midway through the third quarter.
Ridder lofted an 11-yard score to Alec Pierce on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 27-16 edge.
Tre Nixon’s 45-yard TD reception from Gabriel and a two-point conversion pass to Killins made it 27-24 with 3:11 remaining.
UCF’s onside kick went out of bounds, and Cincinnati gained a first down on a fourth-down sneak before running out the clock as fans began to pour onto the field.
—Field Level Media