Football is ready for the start of the season at No. 19 Arkansas on Saturday

David Cohen

Director / Strategic Brand Engagement

CINCINNATI –Finally, Cincinnati’s 2022 football season kicks off Saturday when the No. 22 Bearcats head south to take on No. 19 Arkansas. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on ESPN.

This is the first ever meeting between the schools. Fans can also listen to Dan Hoard and Jim Kelly on WLW, which will switch to WEBN at 6:10 p.m. for Reds coverage.

“Week 1 is unique for me, and in college football I know at any other level you can test yourself against somebody else, but not in college football,” said the head coach. Luc Fickel said to open his Tuesday press conference. “Every year is a bit like that, but to start with a game like this, on the road in a crazy hostile environment, is going to be unique for us. Having a lot of new faces, these guys are here, they don’t have everything just weren’t the recognizable faces. It took a while, I know our guys were incredibly excited.

Led by Fickell, the reigning national consensus coach of the year, and 12 returning starters, the Bearcats are the two-time defending AAC champions and are coming off a 13-1 season that resulted in a trip to the 2021 College Football Playoffs. With a 44-7 record since the start of 2018, Cincinnati’s 86% winning percentage ranks among the top five winning percentages in the nation over the past four years.

Cincinnati lost a school record nine players in the NFL Draft, but returns leaders like TE Josh Whylea third-team All-American in 2020 and a two-time All-AAC selection, all five offensive line starters, three senior defensive linemen and three-year starters at defensive back in Bush of Arquon and Ja’von Hicks. Whyle has 12 career touchdown receptions, including scores in each of the last two season openers. Him and Leonard Taylor were each on the Mackey Award watch list for best tight end in the nation, representing two of 15 overall preseason nominations for the Bearcats.

Plus, Whyle, linebacker Wilson Huberdefensive lineman Jabari Tayloroffensive lineman Dylan O’Quinn and wide receiver Tre Tucker were all announced as team captains.

• UC are 5-0 in season openers under Fickell and have won 11 consecutive season openers, dating back to 2011.
• Cincinnati last opened the season on the road against a Top 25 opponent in 2004, traveling to face No9 Ohio State.
• The Bearcats have won back-to-back non-conference road games in 2021, beating preseason Top 25 opponent Indiana 38-24 in Bloomington, Ind., before traveling to South Bend, Ind., to defeat No. 9 Notre Dame, 24-13. The win over the Fighting Irish was the Bearcats’ first ever over a Top 10 opponent on the road.
• Cincinnati has capped the season against SEC opponents in the New Year’s Six Bowl Games for the past two seasons, facing Alabama in the Cotton Bowl in the CFP Semifinals in 2021 and Georgia in the Peach Bowl in 2020 .
• The Bearcats have 17 all-time wins against the SEC, including nine against Kentucky and four against Vanderbilt.
• The Bearcats have won eight straight road games. UC’s last away loss was on Dec. 7, 2019, at Memphis in the 2019 AAC Championship. was highlighted by an 81-yard TD pass from Desmond Cavalier at Tyler Scott in the first pass of the season after just 45 seconds of play. Returners Whyle, Leonard Taylor and Ryan Montgomery all also caught touchdowns, while Evan Prater had a rushed score.
• The first game of 2020 was won 55-20 against Austin Peay. Ben Bryant threw a touchdown and rushed for another, while Tucker and Whyle each caught touchdowns. Bush had a 31-yard interception return.
• Cincinnati last opened the season on the road against UCLA in 2018 when the Bearcats erased a 10-point deficit to defeat the Bruins, 26-17, at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. Ridder came off the bench in his first career game in the win. • Fickell’s 48 wins are already the third in Cincinnati history and he needs only six wins to surpass Rick Minter as the winningest coach in Cincinnati football history.


recording coach
53-63-1 Rick Minter (10 seasons)
50-13-1 Sid Gillman (six seasons)
48-15 Luc Fickel (five seasons)

• Youth Deshawn Pace, a dynamic defensive playmaker, was sixth in the conference and third on the team with 94 tackles while adding nine for the loss and four interceptions, a team high. His field goal block at Navy and subsequent return set up a 52-yard field goal as time expired.
• Pace was named AAC Defensive Player of the Week after posting a game-high 10 tackles and a fourth-quarter interception in a 38-24 win over Indiana. He also had a 27-yard INT at Notre Dame. • Senior transfer Ivan Pace, Jr., had six sacks in a single game, tying an NCAA record, while playing for Miami, Ohio. The 2021 MAC Defensive Player of the Year by PFF College is expected to be a playmaker alongside his brother, a junior linebacker Deshawn Pace, and the rest of their position group. He tied for 10th nationally with 125 total saves a year ago. • Senior wide receiver Tre Tucker has already proven to be one of the best kick returners in the nation after leading the AAC with a 29.9 kick return average en route to all-conference honors in 2020. He has two career kick return touchdowns, running for a score against USF in 2020 and a score-changing 99-yard swing at Indiana in 2021. The 5-9, 175-pounder from Akron, Ohio, has 60 career receptions and five touchdowns. • Senior forward tackle Jowon Briggs is ready to burst. The 6-1, 313-pounder is called the team’s strongest player by head football strength coach Brady Collins. He is also married with two children, who played at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati. A former four-star recruit and Under Armor All-America, he started his career at Virginia before returning home last season. He turned defensive in 2021 and finished with 42 tackles, including three sacks. He came on strong late in the season recording a sack in each of the final regular season games. He is also an accomplished singer.

• Second year punter Mason Fletcher had a great freshman season for the Bearcats, averaging 42.94 yards on 50 punts while totaling 17 punts in the 20 and six on 50+. The 6-7, from Melboune, Australia, will face his brother, Max Fletcher, a freshman punter for Arkansas. Mason and Max’s parents, Dustin and Suzanne, fly in from Australia for the game. It will be the first time in almost two years that Mason will see his brother and his mother. Fletcher’s father, Dustin, a 23-year Australian rules football veteran, came to the Cotton Bowl last season.

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