AP Photo/Darron Cummings
No. 7 Cincinnati earned a resume-boosting win, topping No. 9 Notre Dame on the road 24-13. It was Cincinnati’s first road win over a Top 10 team in program history.
The Bearcats were led by Desmond Ridder, who threw two touchdowns and ran for another late in the fourth quarter that proved to be the dagger.
The Irish had trouble getting going against the Cincinnati defense. Starting quarterback Jack Coan was pulled from the game after halftime and replaced by Drew Pyne.
With the win, the Bearcats made a strong case for a spot in the College Football Playoff. No Group of Five team has ever finished the season ranked higher than No. 8 since the CFP was established in 2014, despite six teams finishing with undefeated records.
Cincinnati hopes to put an end to that trend this season.
Desmond Ridder, QB, CIN: 19-of-32 for 297 YDS, 2 TD; 10 CAR for 26 YDS, TD
Alec Pierce, WR, CIN: 6 receptions for 144 YDS
Drew Pyne, QB, Notre Dame: 9-of-22 for 143 YDS, TD
Cincinnati Wins Turnover Battle
Entering Saturday’s game, Cincinnati had nine takeaways this season. The Bearcats defense continued to make big plays, forcing three turnovers in the first half.
Notre Dame’s opening drive reached all the way to Cincinnati’s 6-yard line, but it ended when Jack Coan threw an interception to Ahmad Gardner in front of the goal line.
Freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner spelled Coan for a couple of series. Buchner took a hit as he attempted his second pass of the day, and it was intercepted by Deshawn Pace, who returned it 27 yards to set up Cincinnati’s first touchdown.
Greg Logan @GregLogan1
<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NotreDame?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NotreDame</a> coach Brian Kelly outsmarted himself by subbing for Jack Coan with freshman QB Tyler Buchner, who threw pick that set up <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bearcats?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Bearcats</a> TD for 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff after Cincinnati’s touchdown, Chris Tyree fumbled the ball, and Wilson Huber recovered it to keep the momentum on the Bearcats’ side.
Notre Dame entered the game with just five turnovers this season but made untimely mistakes that proved costly. The Irish did manage to recover a fumble by Ridder in the third quarter that led to a touchdown, but it wasn’t enough.
The Bearcats and their opportunistic defense must continue to make big plays if they hope to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Drew Pyne Sparks Notre Dame
Despite the loss, the Irish may have found a gem in their freshman quarterback. The Notre Dame offense just looked different with Pyne under center. The team looked explosive and played at a higher tempo than when Coan was in the game. The home crowd in South Bend took notice.
Pyne engineered two touchdown drives to help the Irish get back into the game. After a Cincinnati fumble in the third quarter, Pyne led the offense down the field, and Kyren Williams punched it in from three yards out.
In the fourth quarter while the game was still in reach, Pyne found Braden Lenzy for a beautiful 32-yard touchdown pass.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly will have some decisions to make this week. Coan was solid to start the season but suffered an ankle injury in the third game of the season and looked shaky against Cincinnati. Pyne clearly injects some energy into the Irish offense, and that cannot be ignored for much longer.
Cincinnati returns home and welcomes Temple to town in the first AAC game of the season. Notre Dame will look to bounce back in a road game against Virginia Tech.