By JEFF WALLNER, Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) – Jerome Ford rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns and Desmond Ridder threw three touchdown passes as No.3 Cincinnati opened a tight game in the third quarter and passed No.16 Houston 35 -20 in the American Athletic Conference Championship game on Saturday.
The Bearcats, ranked No.4 in the latest college football playoff standings, are in a position to become the first non-Power 5 team to qualify. The final ranking will be announced on Sunday.
Cincinnati (12-0), who extended the nation’s second-longest home winning streak to 27, scored three touchdowns in less than eight minutes to complete their second straight AAC crown.
Junior Cougars QB Clayton Tune had 250 yards with two touchdowns and one interception as Houston (11-2) lost for the first time since losing its season opener to Texas Tech on September 4.
It was a crazy first quarterback on Saturday with the teams combining for 24 points and 316 yards.
After the Cougars settled for a field goal on their first possession, the Bearcats responded with 82 yards in five games with a 25-yard pass from Ridder to Tyler Scott.
Nathaniel Dell’s 16-yard touchdown catch put the Cougars back in the lead, 10-7. But on the first play of Cincinnati’s next possession, Ford broke free for a 79-yard touchdown to give the Bearcats a four-point lead.
Cincinnati led 14-13 at halftime despite Houston having the ball for more than 22 minutes.
But the momentum shifted to the Bearcats early in the third quarter.
After a pass interference penalty on Marcus Jones canceled out a Cougars’ fourth save, Ridder threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Taylor.
On Houston’s next play, Bearcats linebacker Joel Dublanko intercepted Tune and Ridder hit Alec Pierce for a 21-yard touchdown. Just like that, it was 28-13 Bearcats.
Ford had another long 42-yard touchdown run, and in less than eight minutes, Cincinnati turned a one-point lead into a 22-point advantage.
Houston: The momentum was on Houston’s side at halftime when they were down 14-13. But two crucial games in the third quarter, leading to 21 straight points for the Bearcats. The first was the passing interference penalty imposed on Jones. The second was an interception thrown by Tune on the first play after the Bearcats scored.
Cincinnati: Despite their 12-0 record, the Bearcats have mostly relied on the help of other teams to carve out a place in the college football playoffs. They got more help earlier on Saturday when Baylor held on to beat Oklahoma State in the BIG 12 Championship game. The Bearcats also needed a quality win alongside the victory at Notre Dame and beating Houston helps. that.
Houston: A bowl game yet to be determined.
Cincinnati: Possible Place in College Football Playoffs.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.