The defensive line has gone on a free fall of production since the injury to senior defensive end Walter Stewart. Early in the season, this group was the most consistent unit on the defense, constantly getting pressure on the quarterback and limiting the big plays in the running game. However, the past two games has seen this group remain without a sack and struggle to stop opponents rushing attacks. Against Rutgers, the defensive line allowed Scarlet Knights quarterback Gary Nova to stand in the pocket for what seemed like minutes at a time, picking apart the secondary on long drives. They did not fare much better against the rushing game, as Rutgers tore apart the Cincinnati defense to the tune of 234 yards rushing. I'm not sure what needs to be done, but someone on this defensive line has to step up and get this group to start playing, or it could be a long last few games.
BearcatInsider grade: D
The play of the linebackers was consistent as usual on Saturday. Greg Blair once again led the team in tackles, with 12, and Maalik Bomar chipped in with five of his own. Nick Temple had a solid game as well, finishing second on the team in tackles with eight. The problem, as with most of UC's defensive units on Saturday, dealt with their run defense. Run defense is a group effort. If the back makes it through the first line, the linebackers have to be in the right spots to limit the big plays. Against Rutgers, the linebacking core allowed too many of those big runs, which sustained drives and kept UC's defense on the field for long stretches of time. I would like to see them shore up their discipline agaist USF, and limit those big run plays on Friday.
BearcatInsider grade: B
Without the play of the secondary, Cincinnati could have very well been run of their own field against the Scarlet Knights. Two red zone interceptions turned would be Rutgers touchdowns into momentum swinging plays for the Bearcats. The first one came on Rutgers first drive of the game. With the Scarlet Knights moving the ball seemingly at will, Camerron Cheatham stepped in front of an errant throw by Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova, intercepting it and returning the ball inside the 50-yard line. The second, and perhaps most important, came right at the end of the first half. With the score tied at 0-0, Rutgers was putting together another solid drive. With the ball inside the UC five-yard line, Nova once again made a poor decision, throwing the ball into coverage, and Bearcat defensive back Dominique Battle stepped in front on the pass, ending the Rutgers threat. Although the effort came in a loss, it was a positive sign for the future of this unit.
BearcatInsider grade: B+