BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Cincinnati knocked off an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent in postseason play to clinch 11 wins for the second consecutive season.
The No. 21 Bearcats defeated Boston College 38-6 on Thursday, thriving despite dreadful weather conditions to begin the 14th annual Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field.
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder rushed for a school bowl-record three touchdowns, passed for a touchdown and totaled 200 yards to earn MVP honors. The four total scores were also a Cincinnati bowl record.
Cincinnati (11-3) senior linebackers Bryan Wright and Perry Young, a Birmingham native, concluded their collegiate careers tied for a team-high four tackles. Wright had a fumble recovery, defensive lineman Elijah Ponder blocked a first-half field goal attempt and junior running back Michael Warren II recorded his seventh 100-yard rushing performance of the season (105 yards on 21 carries).
There were moments when it appeared the game might not happen.
Two delays for lightning — one pregame and one midway through the first quarter that lasted 90 minutes — and consistent heavy rainfall in the first half placed the ability to stage the event in question. More than two inches of rain fell in Birmingham, but the lightning rolled to the east and rain stopped falling after halftime.
The outcome was no longer in question well before that.
That’s because the Cincinnati defense stonewalled the Eagles (6-7), who were without their most productive player in running back A.J. Dillon, who opted to skip the game to begin prep for the NFL draft. Dillon rushed for 1,685 and 14 touchdowns in the regular season. Without him, Boston Colleve managed just 164 total yards and eight first downs.
The Eagles’ only score came near the end of the third quarter on redshirt sophomore defensive back Brandon Sebastian’s 67-yard return after Cincinnati kicker Cole Smith’s long field goal attempt was blocked. A failed two-point conversion ensured the Bearcats defense didn’t allow any points.
Quick hits: The Eagles were guided by interim head coach/wide receivers assistant Rich Gunnell after Steve Addazio was fired a month ago. … The Bearcats won 22 of 27 games the past two seasons, including two wins in bowl games (Virginia Tech in least season’s Military Bowl) … Ridder gained 105 yards on 21 carries, his third 100-yard rushing performance of the season and second straight. … Cincinnati senior Josiah Deguara’s third-quarter catch set the school record for career receptions by a tight end with 92. He finished Thursday with three catches for 12 yards, and has accepted an invitation to compete in the Senior Bowl later this month in Mobile, Alabama. … Cincinnati junior wideout Malick Mbodj scored his first career touchdown on a pass from Ridder in the third quarter. Mbodj became a frequent target late in the season, notching 19 of his 24 receptions after November 1. … Freshman running back Ryan Montgomery scored his second career touchdown with 39 seconds to play in the game.
Personnel matters: James Hudson and Bryan Cook, both transfers who did not receive an NCAA waiver for eligibility in the regular-season, each made their Cincinnati debuts. Hudson started at left tackle and Cook made his first appearance at safety in the second quarter. … Wilson Huber, the sophomore tight end who previously wore No. 82, changed to No. 2 and played a series at linebacker in the second quarter. Huber entered Thursday tied with a team-high seven special teams tackles and spent time during bowl practices on defense. … Linebacker Michael Pitts (shoulder) and tight end Josh Whyle (undisclosed) did not play.
Remember when: The Bearcats won the 2007 Birmingham Bowl (then called the PapaJohns.com Bowl) 31-21 against Southern Miss. Quarterback Ben Mauk was named MVP after passing for 334 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions and rushing for 41 yards.