Saturday's Top 25: Ridder, Whyle help No. 2 Cincinnati top Tulane, remain unbeaten
New Orleans — Two underwhelming victories in a row has Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell answering questions about whether the still unbeaten, second-ranked Bearcats are living up to their billing.
Desmond Ridder connected twice with tight end Josh Whyle for touchdowns, and No. 2 Cincinnati pulled away late for a 31-12 victory Saturday over a struggling but feisty Tulane squad that didn’t trail by more than nine points until the latter half of the fourth quarter.
“We know we’ve got to do a better job,” Fickell said. “We know what brings the energy to our program. We’ve got to find better ways to get that going earlier in games.”
Jerome Ford rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown — his 14th this season — for Cincinnati (8-0, 4-0 American Athletic Conference), which briefly trailed in the second quarter and led by just two at halftime before outscoring Tulane 17-0 the rest of the way.
“We’re 8-0; that’s all we care about,” Ridder said. “No team’s just going to lay over for us, no matter if we’re No. 2 or No. 18. It doesn’t matter, every team is going to give us their best.”
Ridder passed for 227 yards and three touchdowns to go with his 47 yards rushing, but also was sacked in the end zone for a safety and intercepted. Whyle caught four passes for 79 yards.
“We don’t try to pay attention to the rankings,” Whyle said. “Yeah, it was ugly. We could have done better. But a win is a win and we’re going to celebrate.”
But if Bearcats want one of just four College Football Playoff spots, they’ll have to pay attention to rankings — and the first CFP rankings of this season are due out Tuesday night.
Tulane (1-7, 0-4), which was playing without starting quarterback Michael Pratt because of his concussion last week at SMU, lost its sixth straight, but did have a few standout performances.
Running back Tyjae Spears rushed for 106 yards on 19 carries, highlighted by his 47-yard touchdown.
“Spears is a good back; he’s tough and has good speed,” Tulane coach Willie Fritz said.
“I thought we took a step forward, particularly on the defensive side of the ball,” Fritz added. “There are some good things to take away from this.”
Third-string QB Kai Horton, a freshman, started for Tulane because backup Justin Ibieta also was hurt. He completed seven of 16 passes for 79 yards. He was intercepted twice and sacked four times.
Cincinnati cornerback Coby Bryant’s third interception of the season on Horton’s deep pass ended Tulane’s last scoring threat early in the fourth quarter, when the Bearcats’ still led by just nine.
More Top 25
► (At) No. 18 Auburn 31, No. 10 Mississippi 20: Bo Nix passed for 276 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more scores and Auburn’s defense made a number of big stops to hold off Mississippi,
The Tigers (6-2, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) remained the top challenger to No. 3 Alabama in the Western Division with Nix winning a quarterback duel with Heisman candidate Matt Corral.
The Rebels (6-2, 3-2) had their three-game winning streak end after squandering four second-half scoring chances, three with failed fourth down passes in field goal range. Plus Jaylin Simpson intercepted a pass in the end zone — only Corral’s second this season — midway through the fourth.
Nix completed 22 of 30 passes and ran for 30 yards. Tank Bigsby ran for 140 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers. Jahcour Pearson caught seven passes for 135 yards for the Rebels.
► (At) Mississippi State 31, No. 12 Kentucky 17: Dillon Johnson ran for two touchdowns and Mississippi State scored 14 points off of four Kentucky turnovers.
The Bulldogs (5-3, 3-2 SEC) came up big with three interceptions of Will Levis and a fumble recovery. They turned a third-quarter fumble and pickoff into consecutive touchdowns to put the game out of reach.
Will Rogers set an SEC record by completing 92% of his passes — 36 of 39 — for 344 yards and a touchdown as the Bulldogs won their second consecutive game.
The Wildcats (6-2, 4-2) managed just 66 yards rushing in being outgained 438-216.