Ridder does everything for No. 3 Cincinnati in rout of SMU

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CINCINNATI – Desmond Ridder threw three touchdown passes, ran for another score and even caught a TD pass to help No. 3 Cincinnati roll past SMU 48-14 on Saturday.

Alec Pierce had a pair of TD catches for the Bearcats (11-0, 7-0 American Athletic). They extended the nation’s second-longest home winning streak to 26 games and keep alive hopes of becoming the first non-Power 5 team to reach the College Football Playoff.

“We’ve been waiting on playing that complete game,” Bearcats coach Luke Fickell said. “We challenged them before the game and again at halftime. They stepped up and executed.”

SMU (8-3, 4-3) managed 199 yards of offense after averaging 498 through the first 10 games. Tanner Mordecai, the AAC offensive player of the week last week for the fourth time this season, had only 63 yards passing and was sacked three times.

“They lined up and whipped us pretty good,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. “When that happens it’s on everybody. We need to coach better. We’ve got to play better. But I give them a lot of credit. Cincinnati looked like a top three team, a playoff team. They certainly made a statement tonight.”

It was an emphatic start to the game for the Bearcats. After Cincinnati forced SMU to punt on its first possession, Ridder found Tyler Scott wide open for a 53-yard scoring pass on the first play from scrimmage.

“We had that play scripted the night before,” said Ridder, who passed for 274 yards. “I knew I was throwing to the post and I saw Tyler running wide open.”

Following a partially blocked punt by Wilson Huber, the Bearcats took over at the SMU 25 and Jerome Ford‘s 4-yard run made it 14-0 with 5:32 left in the first quarter.

“We had one chance earlier in the game, so we wanted to get after it,” Huber said. “I was able to get through the shields and get my hand on it.”

Ford had 20 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown after missing a game due to injury.

After a fumble ended a promising drive for the Mustangs, Ridder scored on a 40-yard keeper on fourth-and-1 to make it 20-0 in the second quarter.

Alec Pierce caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Ridder and the Bearcats led 27-0 at halftime. Pierce had two TD catches.

Cincinnati’s halftime lead could have been larger had it not been for a missed extra-point attempt and two missed field goal attempts, one which was blocked.

The Bearcats forced six three-and-outs in the first half.

“We came out and executed all-around,” said linebacker Curtis Brooks, who had two sacks. “Great game plan from the coaches. We wanted to go out and have some fun.”

RIDDER THE RECEIVER

The play had been in Cincinnati’s playbook for the entirety of Ridder’s career but until Saturday night, it hadn’t been used. When the call was made, not even Fickell knew it was coming. “I’m not sure I would have went along with it,” he said. But it was executed perfectly on the Bearcats’ first possession of the third quarter when Ford took a handoff from Ridder then flipped to Jordan Jones who then passed to Ridder in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. “We’ve had that play for four or five years now,” Ridder said. “I let the coaches know my hands are certified. I was glad they called it on senior night.”

THE TAKEAWAY

SMU: The Mustangs were without injured receiver Danny Gray who has 803 receiving yards and nine TDs this season, and averaged only 3.5 yards per play. “They didn’t do anything we haven’t seen,” said Dykes. “They didn’t do anything sneaky. They had us backed up early. We had a punt blocked. That hasn’t happened to us in years.”

Cincinnati: Two straight losses dropped SMU from the Top 25 and took some luster off the game for the Bearcats, who needed a signature league win to put alongside beating Notre Dame. But some style points on Saturday couldn’t hurt. “Coach Fick always tells us to keep blinders on,” Bearcats receiver Tre Tucker said. “I have friends and family, but honestly, we know what we’re capable of.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Cincinnati dropped one spot to No. 3 in the poll this week, but more importantly moved up to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings to stay in the hunt.

UP NEXT:

SMU: Hosts Tulsa on Saturday.

Cincinnati: At East Carolina on Friday.

WVU RB Donaldson in concussion protocol, out for Baylor game

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson is in concussion protocol and will miss next week’s home game with Baylor after he was injured in a loss to Texas, coach Neal Brown said Tuesday.

Donaldson remained on the ground after he was tackled on a short gain in the third quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 loss to the Longhorns. His helmet and shoulder pads were removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. After the game he was cleared to travel home with the team.

“He’s recovering,” Brown said. “There is a strict return-to-play (policy) that we have to follow here and I’m zero involved in it. All I do is ask the question. They don’t even start the return-to-play until they’re symptom free.”

Donaldson, a 240-pound freshman, leads the Mountaineers with 389 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) is idle this week and hosts Baylor (3-2, 1-1) next Thursday, Oct. 13.

Taulia Tagovailoa says he visited brother, Tua, over weekend

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to visit his brother, Tua, last weekend after the Terrapins’ game against Michigan State, he said Tuesday in his first comments to reporters since Tua left the Miami Dolphins’ game against Cincinnati last Thursday with a frightening head injury.

Taulia played in Maryland’s win over Michigan State on Saturday but was not made available to the media afterward. He said Tuesday he was able to go to Florida and spend some time with his brother, who suffered a concussion four days after taking a hit in another game but was cleared to return.

“He’s doing good, everything’s fine,” he said. “My biggest thing was just seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him. I came back Sunday night.”

Tagovailoa said he appreciates the support for his brother.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day,” he said. “It was just a hard scene for me to see that.”

Tagovailoa said he was in constant contact with his mother about his brother’s situation, and he was finally able to talk to Tua on Friday night.

“I really just wanted to go there and just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “But he told me he’s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday. … After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine.”

Tagovailoa indicated that his brother’s injury didn’t make him too nervous about his own health when he took the field again.

“I guess when that happens to someone like my brother, or when anything happens to one of my family members, I don’t really think of how it will be able to affect me,” he said. “I just think of: `Is he OK? How’s he doing?”‘

Although it was a short visit to Florida, he said he and Tua made the most of their chance to be together.

“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy and stuff, which he is,” Taulia Tagovailoa said.