The Bearcats defense had given up a combined grand total of 120 points to their last 3 opponents. And last season, the Bearcats couldn’t slow down the Hurricanes potent offense giving up over 600 yards of total offense losing 55-34.
Ranked third in the nation in total offense we all know the Bearcats have a high powered offense that can put up points in bunches. So the big question for the Bearcats heading into a primetime matchup was could they stop this Hurricanes offense from imposing their will and speed on the game.
The Bearcats certainly matched the Hurricanes speed on Thursday night playing their first complete game of the season in a 34-23 victory. The win moved them to 3-2 on the season as they head into what essentially will be a bye week next week before they head to Utah to play the BYU Cougars on October 16th..
”That was a tremendous win for our university to beat a ranked team,” said head coach Tommy Tuberville at his postgame news conference. “Especially the way we have ended a couple games the last few weeks.
The Bearcats in recent week have put up a lot of points on offense but this week the game was won by the defense in the second half.
Looking at the stats on the defense side of the ball for the Bearcats they did give up 427 yards to the Hurricanes offense. And while Brad Kaaya threw for 255 yards the Bearcats defense had a bend but don’t break mentality in the second half.
In between the 20’s the Hurricanes had some success moving the football but in the redzone is where the Bearcats for the first time this season imposed their will defensively. Junior linebacker Eric Wilson who led the Bearcats in tackles spoke on it after the game.
”Yea I think in the second half we settled down and adjusted to their speed and focused on our assignments,” said Wilson. “Good job to our coaches for the preparation throughout the week.”
For the Bearcats the key in this game was pretty simple. The tackling on the season has been an embarrassment for defensive coordinator Steve Clinkscale but not on Thursday. The Bearcats improved on their tackling and had a group effort when getting to the ball carrier. They played with the intensity many people felt like they were capable of at the beginning of the season. The defense was in attack mode instead of being reactive to the opposing offense. Even when Miami was winning the field position battle the Bearcats defense got stops when they needed and it became the reason why the Bearcats won instead of like previous weeks.
While the defense played great the Bearcats offense rose to the occasion as well. Coming into the game as the third ranked offense in the nation, freshman quarterback Hayden Moore played good football despite the interception in the first quarter.
Overall the Bearcats gained 446 yards on the night with a great combination of Tion Green and Hosey Williams rushing the football for 170 yards. The Bearcats showed balance and patience on offense. Even in the third quarter when the game slowed down Moore and the offense didn’t panic and remained patient. With the way Moore is playing it will be interesting moving forward to see the direction this football team is going to take at the quarterback position.
Tuberville indicated that once Gunner Kiel comes back from injury there will be an open competition for the starting job.
”Those guys will compete once Gunner gets cleared,” said Tuberville. “It’s good to have two guys who you can put into the game and they will help each other.”
As the Bearcats prepare for the second half of the season the win on Thursday certainly was a season changer. Now they get a week off to get healthy for the stretch run of the season and to get back in contention for the American Athletic Conference crown.
We know the issues this team has faced this season with missed tackles on defense and excessive turnovers offensively. They improved in each area against the Hurricanes. Now it’s time to put together some wins to meet the expectations they had coming into the season.
We already know offensively they have weapons all across the board with a healthy Mike Boone coming back for the BYU game. On the defense side it’s pretty simple just continue to improve on tackling and start forcing some turnovers to get the ball back for this high powered offense.
Special teams they have patched up the issues that plagued them early in the season. Place kicker Andrew Gantz is the unsung leader on this team going 12-14 on the season in field goals.
I believe the identity of this football team has been established. Bend but don’t break on defense and get the football back for this great offense to score points quick, fast and in a hurry no matter who is at quarterback.
The Bearcats know who they are and aren’t. So it’s time to adapt to the team’s identity and put together some wins to meet the expectations the Bearcat faithful had coming into the season.