Cincinnati standout quarterback Desmond Ridder coined a phrase for what his team’s offense hopes to be this season following a 49-14 season-opening win over Miami (Ohio) last week.
“Part of what we said to be on offense is ‘Code Red,'” Ridder said. “That’s relentless, explosive and disciplined. I felt we put that on display (Saturday). That’s what we like to see week in and week out.”
The No. 7-ranked Bearcats aim to embody all those traits once again when they host FCS opponent Murray State on Saturday.
Even following a season that saw the Bearcats go unbeaten in the regular season, make the Peach Bowl and only lose by three points to Georgia in that bowl game, Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell saw one area for improvement on offense.
“Last year, we didn’t start off the season being able to throw the ball down the field as well,” Fickell said. “We’ve put in a lot of work in because it just doesn’t just happen. Everybody thinks you just launch it up there and have a guy go get it. There’s a lot of timing that goes into that. We really wanted to get that thing off the right way.”
Cincinnati certainly did against Miami (Ohio), starting the game off with an 81-yard touchdown pass from Ridder to Tyler Scott.
Opponents should expect a lot more of those downfield shots all season from Ridder, who considered entering the NFL Draft after a 2,296-yard passing year last season before deciding to return to school.
With an in-state rivalry game in the rearview, the Bearcats will likely continue to display that downfield passing game against Murray State.
“Happy to have it behind us,” Fickell said. “Sometimes, your biggest growth is between Game 1 and Game 2 and there’s a lot of things that the second half brought that we can do a lot better (at), and I think that’s what we’ll work on.”
While Cincinnati hopes to feature an even more potent passing attack this year, Murray State’s bread and butter is a running game that is deep and diverse.
The rushing attack for Murray State is led by running backs Cortezz Jones, Damonta Witherspoon and Rodney Castille, while quarterback Preston Rice is also a threat with his feet in addition to his arm.
In a 35-0 season-opening win over Mississippi Valley State, Jones rushed for 107 yards on 10 carries, while Rice ran for 81 yards on 11 carries and threw for 116 yards.
Having a potent running game working will be vital against Cincinnati so the Racers can keep Ridder and the high-powered Bearcats offense on the sidelines.
“We are really deep at the running back position,” Murray State head coach Dean Hood said. “Our line, they were probably the most improved group last year. They really kind of took off from where they left off from last year. We’re really pleased with the performance and where we are headed with the running game.”
–Field Level Media