Entering last week's 125th Battle for the Victory Bell, the University of Cincinnati defense had forced a turnover in 20 straight games. It was the longest active streak in the FBS.
Sixty minutes later, that streak was over.
The Bearcats failed to create a turnover in their 49-14 home win Saturday over in-state rival Miami University.
Well, kind of.
With Cincinnati ahead 35-0 on the final play of the first half, UC senior defensive end Malik Vann appeared to have caused a fumble on a strip sack of RedHawks quarterback AJ Mayer. Vann returned the loose ball for a touchdown.
But Vann's forced fumble and score were negated after officials ruled the play an incomplete pass.
"Supposedly, afterwards in the second half, the official said that that should've been a fumble. I don't know," Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said Tuesday. "To be honest with you, I was kind of surprised that they (Miami) took a shot at it. But I don't know if I watched it close enough to say, hey, it's close. But it's not like you're sending that in to get evaluated, so you just gotta move on and know close isn't good enough for where we are."
The near fumble was just one of several opportunities the now-No. 7/8-ranked (Associated Press/Coaches) Bearcats had to keep the streak alive. First-year defensive coordinator Mike Tressel said he definitely wanted to continue the streak that was started under former defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman.
"We focused on turnovers, that's why that's a little bit disappointing," Tressel told The Enquirer. "You know, you see (graduate cornerback) Coby Bryant punch the ball out once and darn near rake the ball out another time. Joel (graduate linebacker Joel Dublanko) had a big hit where the ball comes loose and the quarterback falls back on it. Beav (graduate linebacker Darrian Beavers) actually hit the quarterback's elbow with his helmet. If he just reaches out with his arm, we get the ball. We had multiple balls where it hit us in the facemask. We've got to finish those opportunities. But we will. They come in bunches. We're doing the right things with violent hands and getting our hands on the football."
Tressel said those missed opportunities mixed with the defense surrendering a touchdown with 3:20 to play will give his unit fuel to come out stronger this Saturday against Murray State (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+).
"I told the guys the first time we got to meet with them afterwards, I said, you know what? Maybe the fact that we gave up a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter is the best thing that could've happened to us because we'll come back this week with a chip on our shoulder," Tressel said. "Yeah, we wanted the shutout. We don't care who's on the football field. Those are the Blackcats and we expect to stop them. Expect this to be a great week."
Backup QB Prater scores first career TD in style
Evan Prater relieved starting quarterback Desmond Ridder late in the fourth quarter Saturday. Prater's first pass was promptly intercepted and returned 32 yards for a touchdown.
The 2019 Ohio Mr. Football and the highest-rated recruit in program history answered the turnover on the following possession. Prater led the Bearcats on an 83-yard scoring drive, capping the series with a somersault into the end zone on a 14-yard touchdown run with 23 seconds remaining.
"Yes, I was holding my breath as he kept running, but there was something we needed to see inside of him," Fickell said. "He hasn't had a whole lot of opportunities to go out there. For him to have the respect for the rivalry and the respect for the game and his teammates to not want to have his first go-around be a pick-six, and he wanted to come back out there and compete like he knows he can and show not just his teammates but everybody his passion for the game of football."
Ridder earns honors after 5-TD game against RedHawks
Fifth-year senior quarterback Desmond Ridder was named one of the Manning Award Stars of the Week and earned a spot on the Davey O'Brien Great 8 List after accounting for five touchdowns (four passing and one rushing) against Miami.
The 2020 American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year now has 7,200 career passing yards, which ranks second in program history to Gino Guidugli's 11,453. Ridder added to his school-record quarterback-rushing records of 1,873 yards and 23 touchdowns.
The Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award is presented annually to the nation's best college quarterback, while the Maxwell Award has been presented to the College Player of the Year since 1937.
Ridder was a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award a season ago.
Sanders named to Ted Hendricks Award watch list
Cincinnati senior Myjai Sanders has earned a spot on the watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, presented annually to the nation's top defensive end.
Pro Football Focus rated the 2020 first-team All-AAC performer as one of the top edge defenders in the country last season after Sanders accumulated 10.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
Sanders, along with cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, appeared on the Maxwell Football Club's preseason watch list for the Bednarik Award in July. The award has been presented to the College Defensive Player of the Year since 1995.
Sanders was a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award last season.
3-star 2022 TE Lewis commits to Cincinnati
The Bearcats received a commitment Monday from class of 2022 tight end Danny Lewis.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Lewis is a three-star recruit from Westgate High School in New Iberia, Louisiana. Lewis chose Cincinnati over offers from Arizona State, Colorado, Purdue and others.
Lewis is UC's 19th commitment of the 2022 class. The Bearcats have had the top-ranked recruiting class outside of the Power Five conferences each of the past two years.