CINCINNATI – Desmond Ridder had another big game, and Cincinnati’s defense got some revenge.
Ridder threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score to help No. 7 Cincinnati rout East Carolina 55-17 on Friday night.
Cincinnati (7-0, 5-0 American Athletic) extended its school-record home winning streak to 19 games, the fourth-longest streak among FBS schools, and kept its hopes alive for a College Football Playoff berth.
Ridder has accounted for 17 touchdowns in the past four games, including nine rushing TDs.
“Once plays break down and I see a hole, I just go,” Ridder said. “The offensive line has done a great job. The preparation has been good.”
In Cincinnati's three-point victory at East Carolina last year, the Pirates scored 43 points and piled up 638 yards. The Bearcats were motivated to prevent a repeat.
ECU had 293 total yards on Friday, more than 100 yards below its season average.
“The defense had an edge, a chip on their shoulder,” said James Wiggins, the senior cornerback who had five tackles and his first interception of the season.
The offense got off to a fast start with Ridder's 33-yard touchdown pass to Michael Young to cap a 79-yard drive on their opening possession.
“Desmond Ridder is a talented quarterback," East Carolina coach Mike Houston said. "He makes them go. I think he’s an NFL type quarterback.”
The Bearcats' offense produced 653 total yards and averaged nearly 10 yards per play.
Cincinnati had second-and-goal at the Pirates 3, but lost a fumble at the 5. Six plays later, however, Bearcats linebacker Jarell White returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown.
After punting on three of its first four possessions, East Carolina (1-6, 1-5) drove 58 yards in three plays, pulling to 14-7 on Keaton Mitchell's 18-yard run.
Ridder's 16-yard scramble on third-and-12 set up Jerome Ford's 24-yard touchdown run, and Tre Tucker's 45-yard touchdown reception highlighted a 28-point second quarter.
After passing for 535 yards against the Bearcats last season, Holton Ahlers threw for 87 yards Friday with three interceptions. He was sacked four times.
“There was definitely a different feel than last year,” Bearcats coach Luke Fickell said. "There was only one time he had an opportunity to scramble around. I give the front guys a lot of credit to keep him inside the pocket.”
NO HARD FEELINGS
The Bearcats, up 42-10 in the fourth quarter, ran a successful fake punt that led to Ford’s second rushing touchdown. Fickell said the fake was not called from the sideline and he apologized to Houston after the game. “We would not want to do it in that situation,” Fickell said. With 17 seconds remaining, the Bearcats could have taken a knee, but instead handed off to senior Cameron Young who burst through the hole for a 75-yard run to cap the scoring. Fickell and Houston had a lengthy conversation following the game. “I will leave what was said between us,” Houston said
Friday was Cincinnati's final home game of the season. The Bearcats finish the regular season with road games at Central Florida, Temple and Tulsa. “We'll see what we're really made of,” said Fickell. “It's going to be quite a stretch with a bullseye on our back. We need to be humble with what we're doing.”
East Carolina Linebackers Bruce Bevins and Dre Terry were ejected for targeting within about five minutes in the second quarter. Both hits came on Cincinnati kickoff returners. “We’re young and did a lot of good things but we made too many mistakes," Houston said. “That’s on me to get it fixed. They were up against 22-year-olds tonight."
The Bearcats got Wiggins, nickel corner Arquon Bush and receiver Alec Pierce back from injury, but lost senior defensive end Elijah Ponder to a knee injury in the second quarter. Ponder was on the sideline on crutches. “We'll miss Elijah," Fickell said. "He was first-team all-conference last year. We'll have to see how Elijah is. It's hard to lose a guy like that.”
East Carolina: At Temple on Nov. 21.
Cincinnati: At Central Florida on Nov. 21.