Friday night the Cincinnati Bearcats football team traveled to South Florida for a big time matchup against the Bulls with a slim chance remaining for them to climb back in the race for the American Athletic Conference title.
Bearcat Nation had a positive feeling about the football team and the direction they were headed. After a hard fought battle in Houston with the game going down to the wire, then returning home on Senior night defeating Tulsa there was signs this team was finally meeting the expectations set out at the beginning of the season.
Everything seemed to be going right. That was until the boys from Clifton ran into a stampede from the South Florida Bulls who showed the Bearcats they still have a long way to go.
Since the defeat many fans have been searching for answers. After trailing by 48 points at halftime and scoring 24 points in garbage time in the second half, head coach Tommy Tuberville tried to make some sense of the debacle during his Tuesday weekly press conference.
“That was a disaster we didn’t execute in any phase of the game,” said Tuberville. “From offense to defense to special teams all the way down to the coaching staff.”
Tuberville is 100% correct. They were dominated from start to finish in this one. It really was a wasted trip down to the Sunshine State for the Bearcats.
Despite the collapse in Florida, Tuberville doesn’t want his players or fans to make excuses for his football team as they have to prepare for a East Carolina team who is looking to become bowl eligible.
“We don’t look for excuses we look for reasons why the outcome was they way it was,” he said. “We got beat by a better football team.”
That was obvious as the Bearcats suffered their worst loss in 10 years.
So as the Bearcats gear up for a challenge against the Pirates (5-6 - 3-4 AAC) on Saturday one of the keys will be playing motivated football. The Pirates led by 6-year head coach Ruffin McNeill will be ready to play good football especially by it being senior night.
“They have a lot to play for,” said Tuberville. “They are a good football team and they just came off a dominant win over Central Florida and will be looking to finish the season strong at home.”
The Bearcats defense will be tested again in this contest as the Pirates rotate a two quarterback system with Blake Kemp and James Summers. Kemp, the better passer of the two has thrown for over 2,000 yards and completed 70% of his passes. Summers has eight touchdowns and 445 yards on the season.
The Bearcats no longer have a chance at American Athletic Conference title. They obviously won’t be playing in any playoff of any sort. They will however be playing in another bowl game, the ninth time in ten consecutive seasons.
So as we prepare for the end of the season, not only is it important for the Bearcats to establish some momentum but it will also be important for this team to play for pride. Expectations haven’t been met at this point in the season.
”We were picked to win the conference at the beginning of the year,” said Tuberville. “Obviously that’s not going to happen but it’s important for us to finish strong.”
Tuberville and this football team have a chance to finish strong and have some positive things to build off of going into bowl practice and the spring as they look forward to next season.
Just because expectations were not met doesn’t mean the Bearcats don’t have some things they can accomplish. It starts Saturday at noon at Dowdy Ficklin Stadium in North Carolina.