Being a Cincinnati sports fan is tough. It’s not awful, but it sure is tough. I was born in the mid-90’s so I was not around when the Reds won the 1990 World Series. I started to follow the Bearcats, Bengals, and Reds around 2005. Since then, the Bengals are 0-7 in the playoffs and the Reds have not won a playoff series which actually dates back to 1995.
The Cincinnati Bearcats have provided the highest of highs for me as a sports fan. Bearcats football won 4 Big East titles between 2008 and 2012 and UC basketball beat #2 Syracuse and made the Sweet 16 in the 2011-12 season. However, Cincinnati sports teams have a way of coming up short when the spotlight shines brightest and they are given a golden opportunity. The Bengals had a quarterback in Andy Dalton that played his worst games in primetime.
The Reds blew a 2-0 lead to the San Francisco Giants in 2012. The Giants went on to win the World Series. In the 2018 NCAA Tournament, Mick Cronin and the Bearcats basketball team blew a 22-point lead to Nevada along with a chance to go to the Sweet 16. Three years later, Cronin made the Final Four with UCLA.
It’s not about winning every championship, Super Bowl, or World Series. It’s just about being respected. Bearcats football has garnered a lot of respect in the last fifteen years. They went from being a laughing stock in the nineties to being a solid football program. They beat #7 Rutgers in 2006 and that got the ball rolling. Brian Kelly came in and elevated the program to new heights taking the Bearcats to the 2009 Orange Bowl and 2010 Sugar Bowl. Along the way, the Bearcats upset Pat White and West Virginia in Morgantown and capped an undefeated season in Pittsburgh with the famous Pike-to-Binns touchdown. However with losses by double digits in both BCS bowls and Brian Kelly’s infamous departure to Notre Dame, the Bearcats meteoric success seemed fleeting.
Butch Jones came in and beat the teams he was supposed to but did nothing more and the less said about Tommy Tuberville’s tenure, the better.
Although Cincinnati was favored in South Bend, I had my doubts because of this history. The Notre Dame quarterback problems were well-documented, but this was a team that hadn’t lost a home game in over four years. Frankly, I didn’t expect them to win. My personal experiences with Cincinnati sports were weighing on me.
But they did it. THEY DID IT. Desmond Ridder went 19/32 and threw for 297 yds and 2 touchdowns while running for the game-sealing touchdown with 5:08 to go. He hit so many deep balls to Alec Pierce and Tre Tucker along with absolute darts down the seam to Lenny Taylor. The defense was awesome with two interceptions from Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Deshawn Pace which came from Notre Dame quarterbacks that were under duress from Myjai Sanders. Brian Kelly did not have much of an answer for the Blackcat defense.
The kicking game was and has been the primary issue for the Bearcats. Cole Smith was 1/3 on the day with misses from 30 and 37. College kickers can be inconsistent but there are no excuses for not being able to make field goals inside 40 yards. It’s unacceptable for a top 10 team. Fickell said in the postgame that the kicking game needs to be fixed which probably means it’s an open competition in practice. If it continues to be a problem, it will cost this team a game, so I’m pleased to see that the issue is being addressed.
That aside, this is a program building win. To snap a 26-game home winning streak and have thousands of UC fans at the game is massive and just another step in legitimizing the Cincinnati Bearcats in the eyes of the national media as they head into the Big 12 in the next couple years. Beating former UC coaches Brian Kelly and Marcus Freeman is just icing on the cake.
Temple comes to Nippert Stadium on October 8th for a “Nip at Night” special. The team and coaching staff will enjoy this, but they cannot have a let down against Temple, who has been playing well of late. I’m confident Fickell will have the troops ready to go with some patented Attention Training.
P.S. – Let’s pump it up.