No. 7 Cincinnati stays unbeaten with 36-33 win over UCF

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Cincinnati tight end Leonard Taylor (11) is stopped by Central Florida defensive back Richie Grant (27) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

ORLANDO, Fla. – No. 7 Cincinnati found itself in a four-quarter struggle for the first time all season and Desmond Ridder and the Bearcats showed they can take a punch.

Ridder threw two touchdown passes and ran for two scores as Cincinnati defeated Central Florida 36-33 Saturday to head into the release of the first College Football Playoff rankings unbeaten.

The Bearcats (8-0, 6-0 American) fell behind 14-3 in the first quarter against their toughest opponent yet, but grabbed the lead by halftime.

“What a hard, hard-fought game,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. “That is a really good football team, that on senior night gave us everything we could handle.”

Dillon Gabriel threw for 243 yards, three touchdowns and one interception as the Knights (5-3, 4-3) lost at home for the second time this season.

UCF took a 25-22 lead in the third quarter with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Gabriel to Marlon Williams.

"Burn this one, quick turnaround,” UCF coach Josh Heupel said. “We’ve got a trophy game (Friday against USF), our guys will be ready to play.”

The interception Gabriel threw was costly for UCF.