The Cincinnati Bearcats traveled out West to take on the BYU Cougars on Friday night with winning expectations with a refreshed team after a week layoff. With Michael Boone, Johnny Holton and Chris Moore all returning from injuries the fifth ranked offense in the nation was expecting a boost.
Coming into the game the big question was who was going to start at quarterback Hayden Moore or Gunner Kiel? All week long coach Tuberville kept us guessing and stood by his choice to wait until game time to announce a starter. So, when Moore got the start for the Bearcats I was thinking like many of us the offense should pick up right where it left off two weeks ago gaining 446 yards of total offense on the Miami Hurricanes.
With the week off the Bearcats expected to be a bit rusty even Tuberville worried about his team adjusting to game speed in the early stages of the game. The Bearcats have surprised us this season in good and bad ways. The bad surprise was a competitive game against rival Miami (OH) that nearly helped the Red Hawks snap a nine game losing streak against UC. The good surprise came two weeks ago at Nippert Stadium in 34-23 victory over the Hurricanes. Not many people picked them to win against an undefeated Miami team at the moment.
So, on Friday the Bearcats surprised us all again coming out not showing any signs of rust going up 10-0 heading into the second quarter. Running back Tion Green threw his first touchdown pass of his career to Tight End D.J. Dowdy in the wildcat formation and it looked like the Bearcats were going to cruise to 4-2 record coming back home for a matchup against UConn next Saturday. They looked refreshed from the bye week and the offense was clicking on all cylinders. The defense was playing well holding the Cougars to only 10 points at halftime. Even though the Bearcats lead was only 17-10 at the halfway point as a fan you had to be pretty satisfied with the results after the long week off. It didn’t seem like the Cougars had the personnel to slow down the Bearcats offense.
Then the second half started and we saw a much different Bearcats team in the worse way possible. In the third quarter the offense put together a 61 yard drive with Moore having the longest rush of his career for 19 yards putting the Bearcats in the red zone. Green did the rest pounding the ball into the end zone for two yards as the Bearcats went ahead 24-17 heading into the fourth quarter. Things began to go downhill for the boys from Clifton as the Cougars scored 21 unanswered points. On one touchdown pass Tanner Mangum found a wide open Nick Kurtz for a 53 yard pass reception that put the Cougars up 31-24. After watching the play unfold it looked like Safety Zach Edwards was caught out of position and it was a busted coverage for the Bearcats. Kurtz was able to slide by Leviticus Payne and Mangum found him streaking up the sidelines for the 7 point lead. The Bearcats got the football back with still hopes of tying the game up, but the offensive line seemed to run out of gas in Utah on this night. They gave up a total of eight sacks on the night and Moore looked like a deer in headlights whenever he dropped back to throw. The pressure made Moore hesitant and even when he had time to throw the ball his throws were inaccurate because of the pressure the Cougars generated during the course of the game.
The defense had yet another bad performance giving up 449 yards of total offense to the Cougars. On this night it wasn’t the missed tackles that killed the defense it was the blown coverages down the field that led to big plays. The secondary must improve if they want to have a chance to get back into contention for a shot at the American Athletic Conference crown. With Temple being 5-0 the Bearcats margin for error is getting smaller and smaller by the day.
As they prepare for the Huskies who come to town on homecoming weekend they will need to get better in the secondary and the offensive line must have a better performance. The Bearcats will be favored against the Huskies, but if the Bearcats don’t improve on the O-line and secondary it could be a long afternoon at Nippert Stadium next Saturday.