EAST HARTFORD - Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell preached to his team as they suffered through a four-win season a year ago that things would get better if they put in the work and believed in each other.
Quarterback Desmond Ridder gave the Bearcats their fifth win to open this season, throwing for 270 yards and two touchdowns and running for another score in a 49-7 rout of UConn on Saturday.
Michael Warren II rushed for 106 yards and touchdowns of 2 and 14 yards for the Bearcats (5-0, 1-0 American Athletic).
“It didn't get better overnight, it just got better,” said linebacker Perry Young. “We're kind of living his speeches right now.”
Cincinnati found the end zone on seven of its first nine possessions. The Bearcats went 74 and 88 yards the first two times they had the ball and got to the UConn 10-yard line on their third trip before a fumbled handoff.
UConn had a chance to make it close at the end of the first half. Tight end Aaron McClean came down with a pass just out-of-bounds in the end zone and kicker Michael Tarbott missed a 37-yard field goal wide right that would have brought the Huskies (1-4, 0-2) within four points.
Ridder responded by taking the Bearcats back down the field in just 38 seconds, hitting Rashad Medaris, who managed to keep a foot inbounds on the left side for a 21-7 lead with 23 seconds left in the first half.
Cincinnati then made it 28-7 just 33 seconds into the second half, when tight end Josiah Deguara (112 yards receiving) made a one-handed grab and jogged untouched into the end zone from 38-yards out and the rout was on.
“The whole energy of the place was pretty dead and on our sideline it kind of erupted,” said Fickell. “I think we fed off of that.”
Ridder, who played less than three quarters, completed 20 of his 26 pass attempts.
UConn scored on the game's opening drive, when senior receiver Kyle Buss caught his first career touchdown from 5-yards out.
“That's the difference between this year and last year,” said Warren. “We were down early. No pressure. We know we get the ball back. We got time to go score and keep scoring.”
Cincinnati: The Bearcats have surpassed their 2017 win total and are off to their best start since going 5-0 in 2012. They are a game from being bowl eligible.
UConn: The Huskies defense gave up 659 yards, which improved the team's season average. The Huskies came into the game giving up a nation's worst 664 yards and more than 54 points a game.
“I saw that they lost confidence in themselves,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said. “They didn't believe in themselves enough to just go and play. I thought we got punched in the mouth and I don't think we responded. That's on me.”
Cincinnati: The Bearcats Return home next Saturday to face Tulane
UConn: The Huskies began a two-game road trip in Memphis next week.