After falling 34-24 to the Memphis Tigers on Friday, Luke Fickell has yet to make a decision on who will start for the Bearcats on the December 7th rematch. After a couple of disappointing starts made by Desmond Ridder, Fickell elected to switch to Ben Bryant for the Memphis matchup. Desmond Ridder had been nursing a shoulder injury and his two starts against USF and Temple were not great and caused the team to re-evaluate him for the future.
Bryant’s first career start wasn’t amazing, but it looked good enough to have confidence that he can come back and win in the AAC Championship Game. The redshirt freshman had poise in the pocket and made a number of great reads that led to big plays. He doesn’t quite have the running ability of Ridder, but he makes up for it with an upgraded passing game. Bryant went 20-32 for 229 yards, 2 total TD’s, and 2 interceptions. Most people would look at that stat line and infer that he played poorly, but he made the offense move the ball and largely look better than in recent games.
According to Luke Fickell, “We have to see how Des is. I mean, Des is our starter, and if Des is healthy and he can practice, and he can prepare and do the things we have to do, then I would be crazy to say that Desmond Ridder, who has gotten us to this point, wouldn’t be our quarterback.” However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bryant take the field again on Saturday even if Ridder is available. Why wasn’t Ridder benched earlier if the shoulder injury was ongoing and the team knew they would need him for the big games at the end of the season? The injury gives reason to his recent performance, but it doesn’t quite make sense that they would just let him play through it knowing that he’s a dual-threat quarterback that takes some hits as a runner as well as in the pocket.
Nonetheless, it sounds as if Ridder will make the start this Saturday if he has a healthy week of practice. It’s a little late to be starting a redshirt freshman based on potential, anyways. Desmond Ridder has been running the offense for 2 seasons now and having him back might be the change UC needs to beat Memphis this weekend. If Bryant gets the nod, though, it wouldn’t be too surprised if he led the offense to victory based on his performance this past weekend. If he makes a few adjustments, he could really show what he’s capable of for the Bearcats.