Ridder, Whyle, help No. 2 Cincinnati top Tulane, 31-12

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NEW ORLEANS – Two underwhelming victories in a row has Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell answering questions about whether the still unbeaten, second-ranked Bearcats are living up to their billing.

Ridder connected twice with tight end Josh Whyle for touchdowns, and No. 2 Cincinnati pulled away late for a 31-12 victory Saturday over a struggling but feisty Tulane squad that didn’t trail by more than nine points until the latter half of the fourth quarter.

“We know we’ve got to do a better job,” Fickell said. “We know what brings the energy to our program. We’ve got to find better ways to get that going earlier in games.”

Jerome Ford rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown – his 14th this season – for Cincinnati (8-0, 4-0 American Athletic Conference), which briefly trailed in the second quarter and led by just two at halftime before outscoring Tulane 17-0 the rest of the way.

“We’re 8-0; that’s all we care about,” Ridder said. “No team’s just going to lay over for us, no matter if we’re No. 2 or No. 18. It doesn’t matter, every team is going to give us their best.”

Ridder passed for 227 yards and three touchdowns to go with his 47 yards rushing, but also was sacked in the end zone for a safety and intercepted. Whyle caught four passes for 79 yards.

“We don’t try to pay attention to the rankings,” Whyle said. “Yeah, it was ugly. We could have done better. But a win is a win and we’re going to celebrate.”

But if Bearcats want one of just four College Football Playoff spots, they’ll have to pay attention to rankings – and the first CFP rankings of this season are due out Tuesday night.

Tulane (1-7, 0-4), which was playing without starting quarterback Michael Pratt because of his concussion last week at SMU, lost its sixth straight, but did have some standout performances.

Running back Tyjae Spears rushed for 106 yards on 19 carries, highlighted by his 47-yard touchdown.

“Spears is a good back; he’s tough and has good speed,” Tulane coach Willie Fritz said.

“I thought we took a step forward, particularly on the defensive side of the ball,” Fritz added. “There are some good things to take away from this.”

Third-string QB Kai Horton, a freshman, started for Tulane because backup Justin Ibieta also was hurt. He completed seven of 16 passes for 79 yards. He was intercepted twice and sacked four times.

Cincinnati cornerback Coby Bryant‘s third interception of the season on Horton’s deep pass ended Tulane’s last scoring threat early in the fourth quarter, when the Bearcats’ still led by just nine.

MOMENTUM SWINGS

After Cincinnati scored first on Whyle’s 16-yard catch, Tulane surprisingly surged into the lead with a series of successes that began with linebacker Marvin Moody wrapping up Ridder in the end zone for a safety in the second quarter.

On the ensuing possession, Spears’ long scoring run made it 9-7.

The Bearcats responded with an 80-yard, five-play scoring drive, highlighted by Whyle’s 28-yard catch, Ridder’s 37-yard scramble and Ford’s 3-yard TD run in which he pushed through a pack of defenders.

Cincinnati looked primed to pull away when Evan Prater intercepted Horton’s screen pass in Tulane territory, but Macon Clark intercepted Ridder several plays later.

Soon after, Horton fumbled as he was sacked by Malik Vann, but the loose ball bounced up to 6-foot-4, 305-pound offensive lineman Rashad Green, who bowled his way forward for a 15-yard gain.

That set up Merek Glover’s 41-yard field goal to make it 14-12 at halftime.

“They came out and executed well, kind of put us on our heels,” Whyle said. “We just had to go out in the second half and execute the way we know how.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Cincinnati: This marked the Bearcats’ second-straight game in which they were favored by at three or more touchdowns but won by less. Last week, Cincinnati held on at Navy, 27-20. The Bearcats were favored to beat Tulane by 24, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. They led by just nine before scoring 10 points in the final 6:16 after Tulane’s lost fumble and failed fourth down in its own territory.

Tulane: Heading into the season, Tulane was expected to contend for a fourth straight bowl bid. In spurts, this performance showed why as they made their share of plays against a highly-ranked opponent. It also showed why Tulane has underachieved. Costly cross-ups included a botched handoff that led to a Cincinnati fumble recovery at the Tulane 10, leading to a Cincinnati field goal. The Wave turned the ball over three times and was penalized nine times for 67 yards.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

With a second-straight underwhelming victory over a heavy underdog, Cincinnati could slip slightly in the AP Top 25 Poll.

UP NEXT

Cincinnati: Hosts Tulsa next Saturday.

Tulane: Visits UCF next Saturday.

Mordecai throws 3 more TDs, No. 21 SMU beats Tulane 55-26

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DALLAS – Tanner Mordecai threw three touchdown passes to push his nation-leading total to 29, ran for another score and No. 21 SMU dominated the first half in a 55-26 victory over Tulane on Thursday night.

The Mustangs (7-0, 3-0 American Athletic) are a victory away from their second 8-0 start in the past three seasons as they get ready to play three of the next four games on the road in a stretch that ends with a trip to No. 2 Cincinnati.

Mordecai had 300 of his career-high 427 yards at halftime, capped by a 22-yard toss to Reggie Roberson Jr. for a 31-7 lead 53 seconds before the break. The Oklahoma transfer’s 3-yard scoring run on a bootleg off a fake pitch fooled the entire Tulane defense early.

Second-year freshman Michael Pratt tied a career high with three touchdown passes to give him at least one in all 17 of his games, but the early deficit was too big in a fifth consecutive loss for the Green Wave (1-6, 0-3).

Pratt exited the game midway through the fourth quarter after getting hit while sliding at the end of a scramble. SMU linebacker Gary Wiley was penalized for a late hit after a targeting call was overturned. Freshman Kai Horton took over and later threw an interception.

With lead running back Ulysses Bentley IV limited again by an ankle injury, SMU’s Tre Siggers had 81 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including a 1-yard score that was initially ruled short of the goal line but reversed on replay. Bentley had one early catch for 6 yards.

Danny Gray had eight catches for a career-high 140 yards, the biggest a 43-yarder on third-and-14 from the SMU 18-yard line with Tulane building momentum in the third quarter.

The Mustangs’ seventh consecutive win over Tulane was the sixth under Green Wave coach Willie Fritz, but the previous five were by an average of just 4.2 points. Tulane wasn’t that close after the 6:08 mark of the first quarter.

Mordecai, who entered the game tied with Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe for the national lead at 26 TD passes, was 30 of 42 without an interception as the Mustangs finished with a season-high 612 yards total offense, 400 before halftime.

Grant Calcaterra, another Oklahoma transfer who helped Mordecai decide to come to SMU, had seven receptions for 90 yards. Fellow tight end Tommy McIntyre had a 24-yard scoring catch.

THE TAKEAWAY

Tulane: A spirited third quarter kept the game interesting. Kicker Ryan Wright came close to a touchdown pass on a fake field goal that could have pulled the Green Wave within 10 points. Tulane recovered an onside kick late in the third when trailing by 19, but Pratt was stopped short on a fourth-down scramble near midfield on the first play of the fourth quarter.

SMU: Don’t sleep on the Mustangs’ kickoff return game if this unbeaten run continues. Bryan Massey averaged 42 yards on three returns, including a 58-yarder. Murray’s season average is at 52 yards on five returns, including a 95-yarder for a TD to help avoid an upset at Navy.

UP NEXT

Tulane: Another game against a ranked opponent as No. 2 Cincinnati visits the Green Wave on Oct. 30.

SMU: The first of back-to-back road games in Houston on Oct. 30. The Mustangs have won three of the past four against their former Southwest Conference rival, including twice when Houston was ranked.

No. 2 Oklahoma holds off Tulane 40-35 to avoid big upset

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NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma nearly took its hospitality too far.

The Sooners’ game against Tulane was relocated from New Orleans because of Hurricane Ida, and Oklahoma’s athletic department and fans went all out to make their guests feel at home. Oklahoma had the Green Wave painted on the 25-yard lines, and Sooners fans cheered when Tulane’s players ran into the field before the game.

The Sooners then nearly let the Green Wave claim their first win over a Top 10 opponent since 1973. Spencer Rattler passed for 304 yards and a touchdown and No. 2 Oklahoma, playing a road game on its home field, narrowly avoided a shocking upset by holding on for a 40-35 victory over Tulane on Saturday.

“That was one of the hardest hitting teams, one of the most physical teams I’ve played,” Rattler said. “They came out there, and they played great, better than us, for sure. They wanted to win more than us. You could tell it. We have to be cleaner, sharper, and have to be better.”

The Sooners, who led 40-22 early in the fourth quarter, gave up a pair of late touchdowns. Tulane had fourth-and-13 just short of midfield with just under two minutes to go when quarterback Michael Pratt ran for only 12 yards and the Green Wave turned the ball over on downs. The Sooners ran out the clock.

Oklahoma led 37-14 at halftime.

“The second half, I think clearly our team felt like the game was over,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “That’s obviously my job to make sure our mentality is right. I don’t think it was. I think we were playing well at that point and had separated a little bit. And then you could just see we weren’t quite the same team coming out.”

Oklahoma’s Gabe Brkic tied an FBS record with three field goals of 50 or more yards, and Marvin Mims had five catches for 117 yards.

Rattler, a preseason first-team AP All-American, completed 30 of 39 passes, ran for a score and threw for another, but he also threw two interceptions.

Pratt passed for 296 yards and three touchdowns for the Green Wave. He also ran for a score.

“Really proud of the effort,” Tulane coach Willie Fritz said. “Obviously, we didn’t come down here to play close. But we could have won the game. If we would had played better in the first half, I think we would have had a much better opportunity to do it. But we’re going to be able to watch the tape and build on it.”

Tulane opened the scoring on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Pratt to Cameron Carroll. The Green Wave went up 14-7 in the first quarter on a 15-yard touchdown run by Jaetavian Toles.

Oklahoma scored the next 30 points. Brkic made three field goals in the second quarter. His second was a 51-yarder, and he closed the half with a career-long 56-yarder. It was the longest field goal for an Oklahoma kicker since 1977.

Pratt scored on a 4-yard keeper, and the Green Wave got the 2-point conversion to make it 37-22.

Tulane cut it to 40-28 on Pratt’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Carroll. Pratt stumbled and fell in the backfield on the 2-point try.

Brkic missed a 31-yard field goal, giving Tulane a shot late. Pratt’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Will Wallace made it 40-35 with 2:18 remaining, and Tulane recovered the onside kick before failing to score.

Fritz said he loved how focused his players were, especially with so many having family and friends having issues back home.

“Our guys have handled it extremely well,” Fritz said. “They really have. I’ve got good young men. I have very few problems with our guys. And, you know, that’s what I’m most proud of. They can handle this kind of situation.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Tulane: The Green Wave played inspired football and nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in school history.

Oklahoma: The Sooners gained just 27 yards on 19 carries in the second half, so they couldn’t put the game away. Oklahoma went 2-for-7 on third down in the second half and was outgained 230 yards to 118. It was similar to some of the Sooners’ past collapses. Fritz even cited Oklahoma’s loss to Kansas State last season, when the Sooners squandered a 21-point lead, when trying to keep his team motivated.

BRKIC

Brkic made field goals of 56, 55 and 51 yards. He became the first Oklahoma kicker to make more than one field goal of 50 or more yards in a game. He fell just short of the school record for longest field goal – Tony DiRienzo hit a 60-yarder in 1973.

“He saved us today,” Oklahoma linebacker Nik Bonitto said. “I’m keeping it 100 with you. He made some timely field goals. He made some really long ones. I’m real happy for him. This is stuff that we see in practice all the time. It was nothing new to him and no surprise when he made those.”

Kennedy Brooks

Brooks returned for the Sooners after sitting out last season with COVID-19 concerns. He had 87 yards on 14 carries.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Sooners could drop after going to the wire against an unranked team.

UP NEXT

Tulane: Hosts Morgan State on Saturday.

Oklahoma: Hosts Western Carolina on Saturday.