Quarterback Desmond Ridder passed for 338 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for two more and No. 7 Cincinnati held on for a 36-33 victory over UCF on Saturday in a key American Athletic Conference matchup in Orlando, Fla.
The win kept the Bearcats (8-0, 6-0 AAC) a half-game in front of Tulsa at the top of the conference standings and mathematically erased any title hopes the Knights (5-3, 4-3) were harboring.
Ridder completed 21-of-32 passes with his touchdown throws going to tight ends Josh Whyle and Leonard Taylor. Whyle had another touchdown nullified by an inadvertent whistle.
UCF's Dillon Gabriel passed for a season-low 243 yards with touchdown passes covering 6 and 19 yards to Marlon Williams and 10 yards to Jaylon Robinson, but the Knights finished with just 359 yards of total offense, far under their national-best 619.1 average entering the game.
Gabriel followed his touchdown pass to Robinson with a pass to Jacob Harris for a 2-point conversion with 4:27 remaining in the game to get the Knights within a field-goal margin, but the Bearcats were able to run out the clock despite a bad snap that gave the Knights one last desperation play.
After falling into an early 14-3 hole, Cincinnati tightened its defense and Ridder rallied the Bearcats to a 19-14 lead with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Whyle and a 3-yard scamper around end sandwiched around Cole Smith's second field goal.
UCF, which got two first-quarter touchdowns on Greg McRae's 3-yard run and Williams' 6-yard reception, closed the gap to 19-17 at the half on Daniel Obarski's 36-yard field goal with a second left in the period.
The 11-point deficit was the Bearcats' largest of the season and marked the first game they had trailed since falling behind Army 7-0 early in their second game of the season. They won that one, 24-10.
--Field Level Media