GREENVILLE, N.C. — Desmond Ridder threw two touchdown passes and No. 4 Cincinnati, aiming to maintain its position among the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings, completed a perfect regular season by beating East Carolina 35-13 on Friday.
The Bearcats (12-0, 8-0 American Athletic Conference, CFP No. 4) are trying to become the first team outside of a Power Five conference to compete in the four-team CFP.
This outcome was largely achieved because of Cincinnati’s defense. As a bonus, Arquon Bush blocked a field goal and Ahmad Gardner returned the ball 60 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown to make it 28-6.
Less than four minutes later, Darrian Beavers intercepted a pass at the 7:27 mark, but the ensuing possession resulted in Cincinnati’s second turnover inside the East Carolina 5-yard line.
East Carolina (7-5, 5-3) had a four-game winning streak snapped.
Ridder finished 17-for-28 for 301 yards with two interceptions. Alec Pierce caught eight passes for 136 yards. Jerome Ford rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown.
East Carolina closed within 21-6 and then drove to the Cincinnati 5 early in the fourth quarter. But after a penalty, the Pirates were ready to settle for Owen Daffer’s third field goal before Bush disrupted those plans in what seemed like a game-clinching sequence with 11:07 remaining.
The All-America cornerback Gardner grabbed the bouncing ball and was way out in front of the pack for a score.
East Carolina’s winning streak marked its longest string of success in AAC play in its eight seasons as a league member.
Cincinnati also went 12-0 in the 2009 regular season.
The Pirates, facing their highest-ranked team since a 27-10 home loss in 2006 to then-No. 4 West Virginia, were held to 282 yards of total offense.
Holton Ahlers was 19-for-38 for 228 yards, an interception and a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jsi Hatfield.
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