No. 6 Cincinnati stays unbeaten after crazy finish that included two fumbles near the goal line

·3 min read

No. 6 Cincinnati somehow avoided overtime against Tulsa.

The Bearcats (9-0) beat the Golden Hurricane 28-20 after a final two minutes that featured a fourth-down stop two yards from the end zone, a Cincinnati fumble while trying to run out the clock and a Tulsa fumble on fourth down as the Golden Hurricane were inches from a potential game-tying touchdown.

Let's start at Tulsa's next-to-last drive. It got the ball with 5:18 to go and drove down to the Cincinnati 6. On 4th and 5, QB Davis Brin completed a pass to Sam Crawford Jr. but Crawford was stopped a half yard short of the first-down marker. The spot of the ball was reviewed and confirmed by replay officials.

Cincinnati took over with 1:14 to go as Tulsa had two timeouts. Cincy ran a sneak with QB Desmond Ridder on first down and he fumbled the ball right after getting the snap.

Tulsa recovered three yards from the end zone and had four plays to score a TD and then attempt a game-tying two-point conversion. Somehow, Cincinnati stopped Tulsa on all four touchdown attempts.

Tulsa RB Shamari Brooks ran the ball on first and second down and got to the 1. Brin inexplicably slid as he was going for the end zone on third down and was correctly marked short of the goal line. That set up a fourth-down play for Steven Anderson.

After Anderson was briefly stopped at the line of scrimmage he reached the ball out toward the goal line to break the plane. But Anderson was losing the ball as he reached forward. The ball fell out of his hand before it crossed the goal line and bounced into the end zone where Cincinnati recovered.

All the Bearcats had to do from there was run a kneel-down play to end the game.

Where will Cincinnati be ranked on Tuesday?

Every Cincinnati game for the rest of the season will be analyzed through the context of the College Football Playoff as long as the Bearcats stay undefeated. And a nailbiter against a 3-6 Tulsa team is not going to be boosting Cincinnati's chances of becoming the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff. 

The Bearcats could jump up to No. 5 in the rankings on Tuesday after Michigan State's loss. But that could end up being Cincinnati's ceiling, especially as the season goes on. No other teams in the American Athletic Conference are ranked in the playoff committee's poll and SMU — the best opponent remaining on Cincinnati's regular-season schedule — lost on Saturday to Memphis. 

Ridder accounted for three touchdowns before he fumbled the ball late and threw for 274 yards. The Bearcats also withstood an injury to star rusher Jerome Ford. He left the game in the first half after running seven times for 24 yards and a touchdown. 

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