By JEFF WALLNER
CINCINNATI (AP) — Desmond Ridder threw three touchdown passes, ran for another score and even caught a TD pass to help No. 3 Cincinnati roll past SMU 48-14 on Saturday.
Alec Pierce had a pair of TD catches for the Bearcats (11-0, 7-0 American Athletic). They extended the nation’s second-longest home winning streak to 26 games and keep alive hopes of becoming the first non-Power 5 team to reach the College Football Playoff.
SMU (8-3, 4-3) managed 199 yards of offense after averaging 498 through the first 10 games.
Tanner Mordecai, the AAC offensive player of the week last week for the fourth time this season, had only 63 yards passing and was sacked three times.
It was an emphatic start to the game for the Bearcats. After Cincinnati forced SMU to punt on its first possession, Ridder found Tyler Scott wide open for a 53-yard scoring pass on the first play from scrimmage. Ridder passed for 274 yards.
Following a partially blocked punt by Wilson Huber, the Bearcats took over at the SMU 25 and Jerome Ford’s 4-yard run made it 14-0 with 5:32 left in the first quarter.
Ford had 20 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown after missing a game due to injury.
After a fumble ended a promising drive for the Mustangs, Ridder scored on a 40-yard keeper on fourth-and-1 to make it 20-0 in the second quarter.
Alec Pierce caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Ridder and the Bearcats led 27-0 at halftime. Pierce had two TD catches.
Cincinnati’s halftime lead could have been larger had it not been for a missed extra-point attempt and two missed field goal attempts, one which was blocked.
The Bearcats defense forced six three-and-outs in the first half, tying a single-game season-high.
Cincinnati turned to trickery to extend its lead in the third quarter when Ford took a handoff from Ridder then flipped to Jordan Jones who then passed to Ridder in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown.
SMU: The Mustangs were without injured receiver Danny Gray who has 803 receiving yards and nine TDs this season, and averaged only 3.5 yards per play.
Cincinnati: Two straight losses dropped SMU from the Top 25 and took some luster off the game for the Bearcats, who needed a signature league win to put alongside beating Notre Dame.
Cincinnati dropped one spot to No. 3 in the poll this week, but more importantly moved up to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings to stay in the hunt.
SMU: Hosts Tulsa on Saturday.
Cincinnati: At East Carolina on Friday.