WCPO 9 will carry ABC's broadcast of the AAC championship game between UC and Tulsa Saturday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. Starting at 7:30 p.m., we will broadcast a 30-minute special previewing the historic game over our streaming apps online and on your smart TV.
CINCINNATI -- Everyone seems to have an opinion about University of Cincinnati junior quarterback Desmond Ridder.
"Can he make the throws that this team needs him to make?" ESPN 1530 radio host Mo Egger asked in October.
After struggling through the first three games this season, including a three-interception performance against South Florida, the popular opinion was that maybe Ridder should be benched.
"The doubters about Desmond Ridder have sort of come to a head," Egger said. "I’ve lent my voice to that chorus."
UC head coach Luke Fickell never wavered in his support for Ridder.
"He loves the game of football and studying the game of football," Fickell said. "He is a student of the game, which is why I think he’s got a bright future."
Ridder responded with a four-touchdown game against number 16-ranked SMU on Oct. 24, highlighted by 179 rushing yards.
"I knew from obviously starting for 25, 26 games or whatever it was, an expectation I had set for myself and set for the team," Ridder said. "So, when I wasn’t meeting those expectations, I knew someone had to step up, and something had to get going."
In his last five games, Ridder has played some of the best football of his college career and was crowned AAC Offensive Player of the Year. Justin Williams from The Athletic says confidence does a lot for his play.
"He’s one of those guys, if the game starts out well, he can kind of keep it moving," Williams said. "They've made it easy on Desmond; they've given him easy completions; they've given him the ability to take off and run. Once he gets those first one or two offensive drives, whether they score or not, if the offense is moving the ball, it just helps him play so much better."
Players will say they don’t listen to the noise, but Ridder’s high school coach, Will Wolford thinks differently.
"When Des has struggled in Cincinnati, he’s heard people," Wolford said. "He’s read it. He remembers. It just made him work that much harder, and it makes it that much sweeter when he’s had these special games. If you look at the numbers, he’s been the best player in football. The upside is still unlimited, and he’s going to put in the work. He’s only going to get better."
Now Ridder has a chance to play a major role in arguably the most important game in school history, when the Bearcats (8-0) host Tulsa in the AAC championship game Saturday at Nippert Stadium.
Ridder is comfortable doing his part.
"The game’s just slowing down," Ridder said. "I’m just going out there and being me, just playing football, enjoying the game and just having fun with it."