Indiana’s defense had everything going for it in the first half. By using shifts on the defensive line prior to the snap, the Hoosiers forced five false starts out of the University of Cincinnati’s offensive line.
Bearcats senior quarterback Desmond Ridder’s most substantial pass of the first quarter went into the hands of Indiana head coach Tom Allen. The Hoosiers pressured Ridder through most of the first half. The Hoosiers took advantage, and senior defensive back Marcelino McCrary-Ball intercepted a pass and the team was able to recover a circus show of a fumble.
Graduate student defensive end Ryder Anderson blazed to the left of Cincinnati freshman offensive lineman John Williams to find Ridder beginning his throwing motion. The ball slipped out of Ridder’s hand and onto the turf, where Williams attempted to grab it with one hand.
Before Williams could so much as glance downfield, Indiana senior linebacker Micah McFadden slammed into him, popping the ball free again and recovering it. From there, Penix found graduate student running back Stephen Carr in the end zone to take a two-score lead.
Indiana’s momentum ran out in the second quarter, ultimately losing to Cincinnati 38-24.
Cincinnati’s seventh drive of the game proved to be a turning point for the Bearcats. McFadden’s helmet struck Ridder’s face mask after he was pushed forward by Indiana junior linebacker Jaren Handy. McFadden was called for targeting and ejected from the game.
Ridder went to work on the McFadden-less Indiana defense. Ridder completed two of three passes for 27 yards and a 10-yard run, which was capped off by Ford evading Indiana’s defense for a touchdown.
In a post-game press conference, Allen said he was frustrated with the information he was getting from officials on the targeting call.
“We were dominating them up to that point,” Allen said. “He’s our leader.”
The Bearcats’ defense, with newfound momentum on their side, pressured Penix on an ensuing third down. Penix’s pass found the waiting arms of Bearcat senior safety Brian Cook. The Bearcats ended the first half with a field goal, slicing the Hoosiers’ lead to 4 points.
Cincinnati’s momentum carried into the second half as they forced a three and out on Indiana’s first possession. Cincinnati’s possession ended with a missed field goal as Memorial Stadium’s jumbotron displayed a Fraser spiral illusion facing Cincinnati senior kicker Cole Smith.
The Hoosiers needed to regain momentum, and they found it when Penix found graduate student wide receiver D.J. Matthews Jr. downfield for a 44-yard gain. Matthews found the end zone a few plays later on a 14-yard rush. That momentum was short lived, as the Hoosiers allowed a 99-yard touchdown return off the kickoff.
The two teams traded leads from there. Indiana got the ball back with the game on the line with 4:27 remaining in the game. Indiana took a sack, sophomore wide receiver Javon Swinton dropped a pass and Penix threw an interception, his third of the game, across his body to end the drive.
“Against a football team like this, and they’re a good football team, you can’t make those kinds of mistakes,” Allen said. “Can’t turn the ball over. Can’t get into the red zone three times and get no points.”
Ridder rushed for a touchdown, which ultimately spelled doom for the Hoosiers as the Bearcats took a 14-point lead with a 2-point conversion before the two-minute warning.
Senior linebacker Cam Jones said the locker room had a disappointed atmosphere after the game, and players knew they left opportunities on the field.
“In college football, it’s hard to win games with lots of mistakes like that,” Jones said.
Indiana will face its next opponent, Western Kentucky University, at 8 p.m. Sept. 25 in Bowling Green, Kentucky.