ARLINGTON, Texas – The No. 4-ranked Cincinnati football team went toe-to-toe with the defending national champions before ultimately falling to No. 1 Alabama, 27-6, in the College Football Playoff Semifinals at the 86th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Friday at AT&T Stadium.
“It doesn’t feel great right now, but we at least had the opportunity to step back here, reflect a little bit more and recognize where it is that we’ve come from just in the last five years with this group of guys,” head coach Luke Fickell said. “I don’t know if I can see it or pick it up right now, but I promise my wife will make me, later tonight, take a couple deep breaths and recognize where these guys have taken us and what they’ve done for us.”
Led by 32 seniors, the Bearcats finish 13-1, completing the greatest season in school history with their first College Football Playoff appearance, battling the defending national champions in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 76,313 inside the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium.
Cincinnati finished among the nation’s Top 10 teams in scoring offense and scoring defense. UC set single-season school records for touchdowns (70) and points (516), featured the Jim Thorpe Award winner (Coby Bryant), a consensus All-American (Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner) and 12 first-team All-Conference players. Fickell also won nearly every national coach of the year award.
Ridder passed for 144 yards, completing 17 of 32 attempts, and wraps up his career as the most-decorated Bearcat in school history. His 44 wins are the third-most any quarterback in college football history.
“I’ve met a lot of good, close friends that are going to be with me for the rest of my life,” Ridder said in the postgame press conference. “I’ve played a lot of great football with a lot of great players, a lot of great coaches. I’m going to remember every single year, from my true freshman year when I wasn’t playing until now. This loss I just want to thank coach Fick (head coach Luke Fickell) and all the coaching staff, all the training staff, academic staff and all of our fans who supported us even in our down years. Everyone who came out this weekend, traveled to Dallas to support us, I just want to say thank you.”
Jerome Ford led the ground game with 15 rushes for 77 yards, while Young (55 yards) and Tre Tucker (43) each had four catches. Darrian Beavers, whose next game will be the Reese's Senior Bowl in February, paced the defense with 10 tackles, including two for loss and a sack.
Perhaps Alabama head coach Nick Saban summed up the Cincinnati performance best.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, Cincinnati belongs in the playoff,” Saban said. “They gave us all we could handle.”
Alabama rushed for 301 yards and was led by Cotton Bowl Most Outstanding Offensive Player Brian Robinson, Jr., who had 204 yards on the ground. Crimson Tide defensive end Will Anderson, Jr. was named the Cotton Bowl Most Outstanding Defensive Player after totaling six tackles and two sacks.