BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder has been around for so long that it's very likely he will throw his 1,000th college pass on during the No. 8-ranked Bearcats' huge nonconference showdown at Indiana on Saturday afternoon.
Outside of great athletic ability and a strong, accurate arm, he's also got a great head on his shoulder. The Louisville, Ky., native is hard to outsmart.
So every edge possible always helps. Indiana feels like they a bit of an edge in that new defensive coordinator Charlton Warren coached against the Bearcats last year while at Georgia. It was the Bulldogs who handled Cincinnati its only loss, winning 24-21 in the Peach Bowl.
Cincinnati came into the game with a 9-0 record,. Warren and the Bulldogs made it 9-1.
Warren said he also learned a lot about Cincinnati in that game, and that it will help with preparation this week.
"What I learned is that they have a quarterback that’s played a lot of football. It’s hard to trick him,'' Warren said. "He’s seen a bunch of things and he can make checks. He’s one of those guys that can truly hurt you with his arm, with his legs, and with his brains. He is very accurate, very tough, very fast.
"He also has a supporting cast around him that's been together a long time, the receiving corps, the running back. They’re a group that’s very mature, they all came back, they’re on a mission and they’ve had a lot of success. I think playing them last time tells you how much you've got to respect what they do schematically, how hard and well they’re coached, and how well [Desmond Ridder] can execute under pressure. He just sees a lot. So, you’re dealing with a very capable group, and a very smart quarterback who's one of the best in the country.''
Warren and his defense struggled out of the gate at times in the 34-6 loss to then No. 18 Iowa — they're No. 5 in the country now — to open the season. And now comes a second opportunity to take down a big-time opponent. The Hoosiers, who led the country in interceptions per game last year, still haven't had a pick yet this season.
Saturday would be a good time to pick up where they left off last year.
"It’s all about just doing your job at the end of the day, and not worrying about doing anybody else’s job,'' Indiana cornerback Tiawan Mullen said. "It's all about communication, and trusting the person beside you to do his job. What’s so special about this game is that it’s just the next game. We're just preparing, and we just have to keep communicating and everyone will play a part.
"We’re always prepared to get a win. We’re not changing nothing out of the ordinary. They have a great team, a very great offense, and a great receiving corps. We’re going to stick to who we are, truly, and we’re just going to go out there and communicate. Like I said before, we're just going to go out there and play Hoosier football.''
Warren has been pleased with the pass coverage so far, and he knows the interceptions are coming.
"I think when guys are covered, our guys have done a great job of being in position on balls,'' Warren said. "In the last two games, we’ve probably missed three takeaway opportunities by taking the ball out of the air. Josh [Sanguinetti] missed one the other night that went right through his hands.
"I think it’s a product of how we’re playing a little bit right now and the teams we’ve played. At the same time, it’s something we’re always stressing, we have to do better to get more of them. Those are game-changing plays that help set up our offense to make plays and we have to do a better job of taking it out of the air.''
During his career at Cincinnati, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Ridder has thrown 63 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions, so it is possible to get after him. The key will be putting on a good pass rush and force quick throws into coverage.
That's easier said than done, of course, but it is the plan. He's a hard guy to fluster after three-plus years as a starter
"His poise sticks out to me on film, and you can tell he's played a whole lot of football and won a lot of games,'' Indiana coach Tom Allen said. "He is comfortable in their system, and you can tell he knows it well. His ability creates challenges because he can run it and throw it equally effectively. He's very durable for a guy that runs the ball a lot and takes a lot of hits, and he just keeps coming back every single time.
"That's an impressive quality to have. It is not easy to do. His passing sticks out to me. He is very accurate and can [throw] on the run. When he scrambles, his eyes are downfield and he just understands the game really well. He is an elite player, and he's done a great job for them. They have done a great job of developing him throughout his career. He is a good one and we have a lot of respect for him.''
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