Story By: Tre Larkins
After the last three weeks, it’s probably safe to say the Cincinnati Bearcats haven’t yet played a complete football game. Not counting the Alabama A&M win in the opening week, the last eight quarters of Bearcats football have looked like a mediocre team at best.
So this week going up against a 3-0 Memphis team who has won ten straight games the Bearcats know mediocre won’t be enough to beat the Tigers.
Last season the Tigers blew the Bearcats off the field 41-14 at Paul Brown Stadium despite the Bearcats jumping to a quick 7-0 lead. The Bearcats came into this season with high expectations feeling like they can win the American Athletic Conference and they know in order to have a chance at that they have to beat the Tigers on Thursday night.
“It will be the best team we have played thus far,” said Tuberville at his weekly press conference Tuesday. “They have done a great job of recruiting.”
Tuberville is right. The Tigers haven’t lost since October 11th last season against Houston and winning ten straight games is an amazing accomplishment in today's world of college football.
One positive sign for the Bearcats was the production of special teams. The Bearcats played much better in that phase of the game against the Redhawks. The Bearcats must have solid special teams play to have a chance against the Tigers.
The Bearcats winning the field position battle will be a key ingredient for success. So punter Sam Geraci and place kicker Andrew Gantz will be called upon to put the Bearcats in good field position. If the Bearcats can win the field position battle it helps the defense in a big way making Memphis have to drive the the length of the field to score.
Defensively the Bearcats must tackle better. Last week there were so many missed tackles in the backfield for losses which led to points for the Redhawks. So tackling will be a big point of emphasis for defensive coordinators Steve Clinkscale and Robert Prunty and the rest of the coaching staff this week in practice.
After losing Adrian Witty for the season the Bearcats will need Linden Stephens to step up at the cornerback position in his absence. It will be interesting to see how Stephens does as he’s got some experience last season. If not, look for Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch throws the deep ball extremely well and with great accuracy and will attack Stephens early in the game.
With the short week to prepare for the Tigers, Thursday's game is even more challenging for the Bearcats. When teams prepare for a Thursday game off a short week of practice it usually benefits the home team because of the not having to travel factor. This will be the Bearcats first true game on the road so it will be interesting to see how the team responds being in a hostile environment like Memphis.
This is a primetime matchup so the Bearcats mentally must be prepared for the challenge. It’s time for a complete game from the Bearcats and one of the biggest keys will be the Bearcats eliminating turnovers.
In three games this season the Bearcats already have 11 turnovers. In the second half against the Redhawks on Saturday with backup quarterback Hayden Moore, the Bearcats had three big turnovers.
Of course we could look at the offense with Moore replacing Kiel at quarterback not getting enough reps and not being in rhythm with the offense as a big factor. For a young redshirt freshman like Moore, continuity and reps with the first team offense will play a huge roll when the starting quarterback goes down.
We can expect Moore to get more reps in practice this week with Kiel’s injury making his status for the game uncertain. One thing is for certain, if the Bearcats don’t cut back on the turnovers it will be a long night for head coach Tommy Tuberville and his Bearcats on Thursday night in Memphis.