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Cincinnati special teams a bright spot in Cotton Bowl

Cole Smith Cincinnati Alabama Cotton Bowl
Posted at 8:27 PM, Dec 31, 2021

ARLINGTON, Texas — While Cincinnati did not win, two special teams players garnered some attention in UC's loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff.

Middletown native Cole Smith scored the Bearcats' only points, drilling his first field goal since Oct. 8 on Cincinnati's first drive of the day. He followed it up with a 37-yard field goal in the third quarter.

Freshman punter Mason Fletcher gave UC several opportunities, putting Alabama inside their own 10-yard line twice in the second quarter. The second of those two punts was muffed by returner JoJo Earle, and an Alabama player received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for throwing Fletcher in the scrum.

Fletcher, whose father Dustin played 400 games in the Australian Football League, even hit the billionaire strut after perfectly placing a 54-yard punt. Former pro punter Pat McAfee called Fletcher "a problem" in a video posted on Twitter.

"Good luck Saban," McAfee said. "You're preparing for Desmond Ridder, prepare for Mason Fletcher — it's impossible."

Another great moment for the Bearcats? Mount Healthy High School grad Bryan Cook intercepting Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young. Cook had only one scholarship offer as a high school senior during the 2016 season. Five years later, he is an American Athletic Conference first-team selection and one of five UC seniors to accept an invitation to the Senior Bowl in February.

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