Cincinnati’s run defense throttles Navy’s option in 42-0 win
The Bearcats changed their defense for the rematch, adding a linebacker to put eight players up front, and they overpowered Navy’s running game while pulling away to a 42-0 victory on Saturday.
A 42-32 loss at Annapolis last year stuck with them all offseason. Coach Luke Fickell started preparing Cincinnati (8-1, 4-1 American Athletic) to face the option during spring and fall practice.
“Last year’s game against them was an eye-opener,” Fickell said.
Fickell ran the scout team during fast, physical practices during the week.
“You had four linebackers just giving everything they’ve got,” said tackle Cortez Broughton, who had a career-high 10 tackles. “The drills we did in practice — I thought somebody was going to get hurt. We needed that to take it to the next level.”
The Bearcats controlled the game with the conference’s stingiest defense, limiting Navy to 57 first-half yards despite a quarterback change . The Midshipmen (2-7, 1-4) dropped their sixth straight and were blanked for the first time since 2012.
“Getting shut out was embarrassing,” said quarterback Zach Abey, who made his first start of the season.
Desmond Ridder ran for a touchdown and handed off to Michael Warren II for two more before twisting his right leg while getting tackled late in the first half. He limped off, and Hayden Moore took over and threw an 11-yard touchdown pass for a 28-0 halftime lead.
Ridder returned for the start of the second half and threw a 55-yard TD pass on Cincinnati’s opening drive, then was on the sideline the rest of the way. He finished 13 of 17 for 178 yards, and he ran seven times for 66 yards.
Navy switched quarterbacks after its 44-22 loss to No. 3 Notre Dame last week. It didn’t make a difference as Navy’s blockers got pushed around by a defense that ranks 11th nationally against the run. Abey was sacked all three times he tried to throw in the first half , when Navy managed 57 yards rushing.
“I started Zach just trying to get a spark,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We needed to get something going.”
Navy’s last shutout loss was 12-0 to San Jose State on Sept. 29, 2012.
Navy: The Midshipmen won’t be going to a bowl for the first time since 2011, when they finished 5-7. Navy had gone to a bowl in 15 of the previous 15 seasons.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats remain in the chase for the league title. They have a favorable closing stretch, with three of their last four games at home. They were ranked for two weeks before A 24-17 overtime loss at Temple knocked them out of the Top 25 two weeks ago.
Navy has its longest losing streak since also dropping six in a row in 2011. It has lost 10 in a row on the road since a 31-21 home win over Tulsa on Sept. 30, 2017.
Navy was 3-0 in the series, with all the games play at Annapolis. The last time the Midshipmen played in Ohio was 2013, when they lost to Kareem Hunt’s Toledo team 45-44 in double overtime.
The Midshipmen came up short on fourth-and-1 and a pair of fourth-and-2 plays.
NO OVERTIME FOR ONCE
The Bearcats were coming off back-to-back overtime games, the loss at Temple and a 26-20 win at SMU last week on James Wiggins‘ 86-yard interception return in OT.
WARREN CLOSES IN
Warren’s touchdown runs of 8 and 1 yard gave him 14 for the season, three shy of the school record. On his 1-yard run, he took a direct snap, jumped and faked a pass, then ran straight ahead for the score. David Small set the school record with 17 touchdowns rushing in 1993.
Navy: Plays at No. 9 UCF next Saturday. Unbeaten UCF is coming off a 52-40 win over Temple on Thursday.
Cincinnati: Hosts South Florida, which lost to Tulane 41-15 on Saturday.