Cincinnati has ascended to No. 5 in the country after opening the season with four impressive victories.
The Bearcats (4-0, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) now look to keep the positive momentum going when they open their conference schedule Friday night against visiting Temple.
Cincinnati came through with an emotional 24-13 win on the road against No. 9 Notre Dame last Saturday.
Without diminishing the impact of that victory, the players and coaches are fully aware that the looming game against the Owls is just as vital.
“At the end of the day, we are going to go out and play our game,” quarterback Desmond Ridder said. “Hopefully we keep this going into Friday and the week after, and the week after that. We are going to prepare for each game how we do each week and keep going to the end of the season.”
Ridder has been steady through the first four games. He completed 19 of 32 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for a third score. Six of those passes went to Alec Pierce, good for 144 yards.
After completing the 2020 regular season undefeated and being left out of the College Football Playoff, Cincinnati is motivated to crash the party that has been exclusive in its first seven years to the Power Five conferences and Notre Dame.
“We’re going to go out and play our game every Saturday or Friday and put our best foot forward and our best game on film,” Ridder said. “At the end of the year, if we do that and we go undefeated and we play 12 or 11 perfect games, whatever it is, as good as we can, and they still don’t put us in there, that’s not our call. We don’t have the call to make the playoff.”
They do have a say in how their regular season unfolds, with Saturday’s difficult league opener next up.
“Temple has been a thorn in our side since we’ve been here,” Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell said. “They’ve always played us really well.”
Temple beat Cincinnati in Fickell’s first two seasons with the Bearcats in 2017 and 2018, and in the most recent meeting in 2019 – 17th-ranked Cincy emerged by the margin of a 99-yard defensive conversion in the fourth quarter, 15-13.
The Owls (3-2, 1-0) will be looking for their third consecutive victory. They rallied last week from a 17-point deficit in the second quarter to defeat Memphis 34-31.
Quarterback D’Wan Mathis, a transfer from Georgia, played arguably his most complete game of the season. He threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 53 yards.
“Mathis is an emotional player,” Temple head coach Rod Carey said. “He used that emotion to his benefit.”
Mathis’ 35 completions, passing yards, rushing yards and touchdowns were all career highs as he found 11 different receivers.
“We’re finally doing what we do in practice,” Mathis said. “We began to execute in the second half. You guys finally got to see it.”
This road matchup looms as a monumental task for the Owls, who are trying to get back to their sixth bowl game in seven years after a 1-6 campaign last season.
“There’s a lot of things in there we have to get better at and strive to improve,” Carey said. “We have not arrived. It’s about the journey.”
–Field Level Media