CINCINNATI (AP) — Desmond Ridder threw touchdown passes to three different receivers and ran for two and Jerome Ford also scored twice as the seventh-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats remained undefeated with a 49-10 win over the Memphis Tigers on Saturday.
Playing in a Nippert Stadium nearly empty due to COVID-19 protocols, the Bearcats (5-0, 3-0 AAC) decisively snapped a five-game losing streak against Memphis (3-2, 2-2), including two losses by a combined 15 points over a span of eight days last season – the second in the AAC championship game.
Ridder, who set a program record for quarterbacks with 179 yards rushing while throwing three touchdown passes a week earlier at Southern Methodist, finished 21-of-26 for 271 yards with an interception.
The stingy Cincinnati defense, ranked 18th in the nation in total defense going into the game, sacked Memphis quarterback Brady White six times while holding the Tigers to their fewest points since scoring 10 in a loss to Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 30, 2015.
Ridder threw touchdown passes of 43 yards to Alex Pierce and six yards to Michael Young and scored himself on a 13-yard run to help Cincinnati open up a 21-10 halftime lead. Pierce made a leaping catch at the goal line and tumbled between two defenders into the end zone for his first touchdown since returning from a knee injury to make his season debut at SMU.
Memphis’ only touchdown came on White’s wide receiver screen in the right flat to Tahj Washington, who broke free from a group of would-be Bearcat tacklers and raced to the end zone to complete a 92-yard play.
Washington lurched forward like a sprinter breaking the finish-line tape as he crossed the goal line.
The Cincinnati defense came up with a crucial stop on the Tigers’ first possession of the second half. Memphis drove to the Bearcats’ 10-yard line, but White couldn’t connect with well-covered tight end Sean Dykes on fourth-and-two.
Cincinnati came right back with Ridder’s 45-yard bomb to Jayshon Johnson, who made a diving catch at the Memphis 11 to set up Ridder’s nine-yard touchdown run, helping the Bearcats take a 28-10 lead with 6:23 left in the third quarter. Ridder added a 21-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Jayshon Johnson to break the game open with 1:27 left in the third quarter.
Ford tacked on two fourth-quarter touchdowns, the first coming on a 33-yard run on the first play after James Wiggins stripped White of the ball and Ty Van Fossen recovered for the Bearcats with 8:10 left in the game.
Memphis: The Tigers have lost 17 straight road games against Top 25 teams since winning at Auburn in 1975.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats improved to 9-1 all time when ranked in the top 10. Their only loss was to No. 5 Florida in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.
Memphis: The Tigers are scheduled to return home to face AAC cellar-dwelling South Florida (1-5, 0-4), which is coming off a bye week after being trounced at home by Tulsa, 42-13, on October 23.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats are scheduled to meet Houston in the second of three straight home games. The Cougars went into Saturday’s game against Central Florida 2-1 overall and tied with Cincinnati for the AAC’s top spot with a 2-0 record.