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WATCH: No. 2 Cincinnati holds off Navy to remain unbeaten

Oct 23, 2021; Annapolis, Maryland, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats tight end Josh Whyle (81)  celebrates with  wide receiver Tre Tucker (7) after scoring a first quarter touchdown against the Navy Midshipmen  at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 23, 2021; Annapolis, Maryland, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats tight end Josh Whyle (81) celebrates with wide receiver Tre Tucker (7) after scoring a first quarter touchdown against the Navy Midshipmen at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Cincinnati overcame a rocky first half and held off a late rally from host Navy to remain undefeated, winning 27-20 on Saturday in an American Athletic Conference contest in Annapolis, Md.

Jerome Ford rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and Desmond Ridder connected with tight end Josh Whyle for a pair of touchdowns for the Bearcats (7-0, 3-0 AAC).

Tai Lavatai completed 11 of 15 passes for 116 yards and rushed for two scores and fullback Isaac Ruoss ran for a team-high 80 yards on 19 carries for the Midshipmen (1-6, 1-4).

Down by 14 late in the fourth quarter, Navy engineered a 16-play, 90-yard drive aided by two Cincinnati penalties: roughing the passer on a would-be interception and pass interference at the 1-yard line.

Lavatai punched in his second TD run of the day with 50 seconds left and the Midshipmen recovered their onside kick, but their last-ditch effort to tie the game fell short when Cincinnati cornerback Arquon Bush intercepted Lavatai.

It took until the final play before halftime for the Bearcats to grab their first lead. Cincinnati hurt itself with 11 penalties for 93 yards, twice jumping offsides before Navy fourth-and-short attempts.

The Midshipmen used their second possession of the game effectively, keeping Cincinnati’s offense on ice by running 13 plays and 7:12 of game time. A 19-yard wide receiver reverse to Jayden Umbarger helped set up Lavatai’s 2-yard touchdown on a draw run.

But Navy attempted a surprise onside kick and Cincinnati picked it up near midfield. Just a minute later, Ridder hit Whyle over the top for a 31-yard score to tie it 7-7.

Navy moved back ahead with a field goal and stalled the next Bearcat drive when Ridder threw an interception to Jamal Glenn in coverage near the goal line.

Later, with the score 10-10, the Midshipmen ran down the first-half game clock and went for a long field goal, but it was blocked and returned by Deshawn Pace. In a fortunate turn for Cincinnati, Pace stepped out of bounds with one second left, allowing his kicker Alex Bales time to knock down a 52-yard field goal that delivered the Bearcats a 13-10 halftime lead.

That finally got Cincinnati going. The Bearcats visited the end zone twice in the third quarter, when Ford broke away for a 43-yard touchdown scamper and Ridder tossed a play-action dump pass to Whyle for a 3-yarder.

Ridder finished with 176 yards on 18-for-30 passing with two TDs and an interception. Whyle led the Bearcats with 60 receiving yards.

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–Field Level Media