The Cincinnati Bearcats have the team, the high early season ranking and – most importantly – the schedule to make some noise as they try to make their way into the College Football Playoff.
No. 8 Cincinnati’s CFP hopes still are intact after surviving with a 38-24 turnover-filled road win against Indiana on Saturday.
Indiana running back Tim Baldwin fumbled on the 2-yard-line with 8:26 left with a chance to take the lead and the Hoosiers never threatened again.
Indiana (1-2) capitalized off of Cincinnati mistakes in the first half, but also squandered opportunities. Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder was intercepted by Marcelino McCrary-Ball and it took six plays for Indiana to cash in when Michael Penix Jr. found Peyton Hendershot on a 16-yard scoring strike.
Indiana got inside the Cincinnati red zone three times and came away with no points. Those drives ended in a turnover on downs, an interception and a fumble.
In the second quarter, Ridder, who went 20-for-36 for 210 yards with one touchdown and one interception, was sacked and fumbled. When one of his offensive lineman scooped it up with one hand, he was hit and coughed the ball up. It was recovered by John Williams deep in Bearcats territory. Indiana took two plays to score after Stephen Carr’s 5-yard touchdown catch.
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Cincinnati (3-0) cut the lead in half when Jerome Ford punched it from 5 yards with 1:30 left in the first half following an ill-advised throw by Penix that was intercepted by Arquon Bush.
The fireworks really started in the third quarter as both teams combined to score on seven straight drives.
After D.J Matthews scored a 14-yard TD run on an end around giving Indiana a 21-17 lead, Trey Tucker took the ensuing kickoff back 99 yards for a score.
Ridder’s 19-yard TD pass to Alec Pierce capped Cincinnati’s fifth straight scoring drive, handing the Bearcats a 30-24 cushion.
Indiana’s last-ditch effort ended after Penix was intercepted for a third time with three minutes remaining.
Cincinnati now moves on to an off week. The Bearcats face their biggest test of the year Oct. 2 against Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, with a chance to solidify their national ranking and take another step toward being the first Group of Five team to qualify for the CFP.
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