No. 2 Cincinnati stays unbeaten with 27-20 win over Navy

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Arquon Bush intercepted a pass with 25 seconds left to help No. 2 Cincinnati hold on for a 27-20 victory over Navy on Sunday.

The Bearcats (7-0, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) weren’t at their best, but they never looked like they were in significant danger until the final minute, when Navy scored to make it a one-score game and then recovered an onside kick with 48 seconds left.

The Midshipmen (1-6, 1-4) didn’t do much with that final chance, though. Tai Lavatai‘s third-down pass was picked off by Bush near the Cincinnati 45.

“We’ve got to find ways, especially on the road, when you’re up, whatever it is, 13 points or something, to kind of close things out,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. “That’s probably the only thing that I’m somewhat disappointed we couldn’t and didn’t do today, but we needed a challenge and we got one.”

The Bearcats were fortunate to lead by three after a mistake-filled first half, but Cincinnati eventually snapped out of its offensive funk. Desmond Ridder threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns.

Navy was hosting a top-five team for the first time since 1984, and the Midshipmen didn’t trail until a wild swing at the end of the first half. With the game tied at 10, Navy was driving and looked poised to use up the remaining time in the second quarter. But after losing yards on back-to-back plays, the Midshipmen had to try a 51-yard field goal.

The kick was blocked, and Cincinnati’s Deshawn Pace nearly ran it back for a touchdown, but he stepped out of bounds with 1 second left. That was enough time for Alex Bales to kick a 52-yard field goal and give the Bearcats a 13-10 lead.

Jerome Ford‘s 43-yard touchdown run made it 20-10, and Ridder added a 3-yard TD pass to Josh Whyle later in the third.

Lavatai scored on a 1-yard run for Navy in the final minute of the game.

“I’m very very proud of our team, proud of our defense, but that’s not good enough,” said Navy cornerback Jamal Glenn, who had an interception and recovered the late onside kick. “Coming into the game … we stressed, moral victories is not a thing. Yeah, they’re the No. 2 team in the country, but we want to win games.”

Cincinnati was coming off back-to-back 50-point performances, but the first half of this one was a slog. Navy drove 79 yards in 7:12 and took a 7-0 lead on Lavatai’s 2-yard run.

The Bearcats quickly tied it on a 31-yard pass from Ridder to Whyle.

With Cincinnati down 10-7, Ridder threw an interception deep in Navy territory, but after that, the Bearcats scored on their next four possessions.

THE TAKEAWAY

Cincinnati: Navy presents some unique challenges for its opponents, but it wasn’t the option-based offense that was causing the Bearcats that much trouble. Cincinnati just didn’t look smooth offensively for much of the day.

Navy: The Midshipmen kept the Bearcats from making too many big plays early on, and Navy’s rarely used passing game was good enough to mount a comeback at the end.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

While Cincinnati was struggling with Navy, No. 3 Oklahoma was also having problems with Kansas. This game will fuel the Bearcats’ detractors, but they remained unbeaten and have plenty of chances to win more impressively later in the season.

UP NEXT

Cincinnati: The Bearcats play at Tulane next Saturday.

Navy: The Midshipmen play at Tulsa on Friday night.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.