It was Cincy’s first game with the number two ranking in the Polls, and it seemed as though the rankings were heavy on their minds.
The unbeaten Bearcats actually led by 17 at one point, but a late turnover by the Midshipmen with seconds left wrapped up a 27-20 victory Saturday in Annapolis, Maryland.
The Midshipmen started the game like a team with nothing to lose by taking an early 7-0 lead halfway through the first quarter with a 13 play, 79-yard drive capped off by QB Tai Lavatai’s 2-yard run.
Navy attempted an onside kick, but the Bearcats snuffed the surprise out and came away with great field position. Cincinnati woke up with their Heisman candidate QB Desmond Ridder, responding with a three play drive ending with a 31-yard strike to TE Josh Whyle tying the score at 7, that took a little over a minute.
The teams then traded field goals during the second quarter. The Navy Midshipmen had a great opportunity to take the lead just before halftime, but the Bearcats blocked a field goal attempt and returned it 22 yards with one second left before the break.
Cincy took full advantage of the block and kicked a long 52-yarder to end the half with a 13-10 lead.
“Everyone’s going to give us our best,” Ridder said. “Navy was a great team. We’re playing against the United States Navy, so we know that they’re going to fight all four quarters. The game’s not going to be over until the clock hits zero. That’s what we learned today, that we can’t take nothing for granted, can’t take any game for granted.”
The third quarter started with Cincinnati playing great defense and imposing their will by taking a 20 to 10 lead on a 43-yard power run from RB Jerome Ford.
On their next possession, Heisman Candidate QB Desmond Ridder connected for the second time to TE Josh Whyle for a commanding lead of 27-10 going into the 4th.
The Midshipmen scored 10 unanswered points in the 4th quarter, but their dreams of beating the # 2 team in the nation ended when they pulled off a spectacular onside kick, but then they gave it away by throwing an interception to CB Arquon Bush with 25 seconds left in the game.
The win over Navy moves Cincinnati to 7-0 and 3-0 in conference play.
“We’ve got to find ways, especially on the road, when you’re up, whatever it is, 13 points or something, to kind of close things out,” Bearcats coach Fickell said. “That’s probably the only thing that I’m somewhat disappointed we couldn’t and didn’t do today, but we needed a challenge and we got one.”
Navy, who continues to play very tough, but have to be able to hold on to the ball when the game is on the line.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats play at Tulane next Saturday.
Navy: The Midshipmen play at Tulsa on Friday night.