CINCINNATI (AP) — A couple of close calls against overmatched opponents got Cincinnati's attention. The 17th-ranked Bearcats made sure the lowliest team in the American Athletic wouldn't stick around very long.
Desmond Ridder threw for a pair of touchdowns and Michael Warren II ran for two more during a dominant opening half, and Cincinnati remained the only unbeaten team in AAC play by routing Connecticut 48-3 on Saturday.
The Bearcats (8-1, 5-0) retained the inside track for the conference title by ending their recent trend of slow starts . They led 38-0 at halftime and began sending in its backups midway through the third quarter.
"We haven't had one of these in a while," coach Luke Fickell said.
The Bearcats struggled in a home win over Tulsa, then had to rally in the fourth quarter for a victory at East Carolina. Fickell made sure they were much more focused against the worst all-around team in the conference.
"Coach went in on Tuesday and kind of ripped into us a little bit," tight end Josiah Deguara said. "We can't play to our opponent. So, we had a really good week of practice and it showed tonight."
For UConn? Nothing good at all.
The Huskies (2-8, 0-6) had two players ejected while losing their 17th straight conference game. The Huskies have dropped 24 of their last 25 against FBS teams. They fell to 0-9 all-time at Nippert Stadium .
The Bearcats got rolling against a defense that has allowed the most points in the conference. Ridder connected with Deguara on touchdowns of 18 and 15 yards. Warren scored from 6 and 1 yards out, and Gerrid Doaks had a 53-yard run that set up his 1-yard touchdown in the first half.
Ridder went 13 of 23 for 136 yards and ran seven times for 94 yards. He was replaced after the opening drive of the third quarter.
"It was really good for us to come out there, jump on them quick, get up 14-0 and just keep it going," Ridder said.
The tone was set in the first 10 minutes, when the Huskies gave up a pair of touchdowns, got a punt blocked, and had linebacker Omar Fortt ejected for targeting a receiver. Defensive lineman Dillon Harris also was ejected in the second quarter for a high hit on Ridder that caused a fumble.
UConn coach Randy Edsall disagreed with both calls and ejections.
"If they are going to be throwing people out of the game for playing football, we might as well stop playing football," Edsall said. "The two calls they gave — if that's targeting, let's stop playing."
Cincinnati's Darrick Forrest picked off Zack Zergiotis, giving the Bearcats 13 interceptions and 21 takeaways for the season, among the best nationally. Cincinnati has 11 interceptions and five fumble recoveries in the last five games.
Zergiotis was 4 of 14 for 35 yards in the first half with the interception, the true freshman's fourth turnover in the last two games. Mike Beaudry started the second half and went 6 of 9 for 35 yards.
"I told Jack at halftime: You're like a starting pitcher in baseball today," Edsall said. "You just didn't have it. It's like you gave up five home runs. You have to put the other guy in. Next start it might be a lot better."
UConn's Kevin Mensah ran for 115 yards in his third straight triple-digit game. He has been the Huskies' only threat on offense lately.
"You just go out there and give it all you've got, try to motivate guys, try to motivate the team," Mensah said.
UConn has lost its last two games against Cincinnati by a combined 97-10.
The Bearcats harped on playing with more focus after their ragged wins against Tulsa and East Carolina and were sharp in all aspects of their homecoming game.
The Bearcats put themselves in position to improve upon their highest ranking since 2009, when they got as high as No. 4 during a perfect regular season. The Huskies fell to 3-32 against ranked teams.
The Huskies' last win over a ranked team was 20-17 over No. 13 Houston in 2015. The other two were over No. 19 Louisville in 2012 and against No. 11 South Florida in 2007.
Warren has 29 touchdowns rushing in his career, moving ahead of Isaiah Pead into third place on the school's list.
Cincinnati has won 12 in a row at Nippert Stadium since November 2017.
UConn has a bye before hosting East Carolina on Nov. 23.
Cincinnati plays at South Florida on Saturday.
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