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.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.