Coming into the season the Cincinnati Bearcats football team had high expectations for the upcoming season. Coach Tommy Tuberville, a 19-year head coaching veteran was entering his third season as coach and Bearcat Nation was excited about where this team was heading in 2015.
With running backs Tion Greene and Hosey Williams returning from injuries to help Michael Boone develop a three headed machine at the position for the Bearcats and a group of wide receivers loaded with the likes of Johnny Holton, Mekale Mckay, Shaq Washington and Max Morrison the offense looked ready for a big season.
Defensively first year defensive coordinator Steve Clinkscale came into the season with unproven talent looking for improvement after struggling the last few seasons.
As the midway point of the season and the Bearcats record at 3-3 heading into homecoming weekend against the Connecticut Huskies, the Bearcats come in disappointed at where they stand.
Tuesday, Tuberville spoke with the media for the first time since his team loss to BYU 38-24 and gave the impression that he still has confidence that his team can turn this season into a successful one if they learn to execute in pivotal moments in games.
“If we play the way we did the first three quarters we can have success the rest of the season,” said Tuberville. “But in the fourth quarter, we had busted coverages on defense and struggled to move the ball on offense. So it’s disappointing to lose a game like that when you play so well the first three quarters.”
To Tuberville’s point the Bearcats were outscored by BYU 21-0 in the fourth quarter. They were held to 1 yard on offense while defensively they up 146 yards to the Cougars.
Tuberville spoke about his team being outplayed in the fourth quarter of all the games they have lost this season. Women lie, men lie, but numbers don’t. The numbers show in the Bearcats loses they have been outscored 46-27 in the fourth quarter.
So they must improve their fourth quarter play on both sides of the ball. Of course this pass week playing out in Utah above sea level you could make the argument the Bearcats were a little out of gas when the fourth quarter approached.
“Looking at our guys on the sidelines in the fourth quarter we were gassed,” said Tuberville. “They were playing much faster than us in the fourth quarter.”
So depending on how you view playing in a different altitude and how it can affect a football team you could make the BYU game an exception for the Bearcats as far as being outplayed in the fourth quarter. But the rest of the season, the Bearcats must play better and send a better knockout punch to their opponents if they want to turn this season around.
Friday one of the Bearcats biggest struggles came in protecting Hayden Moore. For the first time this season the offensive line had a lackluster effort giving up eight sacks to the Cougars.
Moore seemed to be very hesitant and inaccurate rushing throws down the field even when receivers were open down the field.
“Some of the sacks weren’t on the offensive lineman they were on running backs and tight ends,” said Tuberville. ”But some of the sacks were on the quarterback not throwing the football quick enough.”
Whatever the cause of the sacks the Bearcats must protect whoever is playing quarterback. With all the weapons offensively, whether it’s Moore or Gunner Kiel, they must have time to throw to make big plays down the field in the passing game. Most of this season the offensive line has been the most unsung unit on this team. They must have a good season moving forward I believe they can still have success.
Defensively it wasn’t just the missed tackles that killed them against BYU, it was busted coverages down the field. Too many times in the secondary after a big play from the Cougars, the Bearcats seemed confused on who was suppose to be where on the back end.
The only bright spot for the secondary was the play of freshman safety Tyrell Gilbert who received a game ball from our very own JT Smith. Gilbert, a hometown kid who played at Princeton high school had 8 tackles (one for a loss) against the Cougars. He was very aggressive and made tackles when needed for the Bearcats.
Of course, if your safety is having a good game it makes you wonder just how many yards the opposing offense was gaining in order for the safety to make those plays, but it doesn’t take away from Gilbert’s great play.
Overall for the Bearcats once again the defense needs much improvement in order to meet the expectations they had coming into the season. Sitting at 3-3 the Bearcats aren’t where they expected to be at this point in the season, but they still have time to buckle down and become the team we thought they were prior to the season.
It starts Saturday afternoon on homecoming weekend. The Bearcats will be favored so let’s hope they put on a good performance that will give them some momentum to build off of and get the needed wins to reach a bowl game.