Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Bearcats can't afford slow start at Purdue on Saturday

The Cincinnati Bearcats won their season opener versus the UT Martin Skyhawks 28-7. The Bearcats handled business on Thursday, but it wasn't pretty. This Saturday they will be heading to Purdue for a Big Ten matchup. Purdue will be a step up in competition for Cincinnati and they won't be able to have a slow start on the road.

The Cincinnati Bearcats coming into this season are built much differently than previous years. After losing six senior receivers to the graduation the strength of this team surprisingly shifted to the defensive side of the ball. With many of last year’s starters returning defensively, head coach Tommy Tuberville banked on his defense to carry this team to reach the expectations they been talking about all offseason. That’s why when they won the toss and deferred to the second half it made sense until the Skyhawks marched 75 yards on their opening drive to take a 7-0 lead.

In that opening drive the Bearcats defensively seemed confused and out of it as the Skyhawks took advantage. They were reacting instead of being aggressive and it seems as if the Skyhawks had them on their heels. Two bad penalties included an encroachment by defensive tackle Alex Pace and pass interference by safety Tyrell Gilbert that kept the drive alive for the Skyhawks. The pass interference was a 15 yard gain and put the Skyhawks at the Cincinnati 25 yard line where they later capitalized on a seven yard touchdown throw by Gunnar Holcombe.

Overall the Bearcats were lucky to only be trailing by one point at the half. Miscue after miscue haunted them in the first half and if UT Martin kicker Mitch Mersman hadn’t missed two field goals who knows if the Bearcats would have recovered after such a bad start. Everyone had their share of the blame pie in this one and it wasn’t just the defense who struggled. Hayden Moore threw one bad interception and fumbled deep in Skyhawks territory. Tion Green fumbled once and place kicker Josh Pasley missed a field goal and extra point.

In the end coach Tuberville seemed happy with his team’s performance. “I would much rather have that type of game because it showed our guys where we are at and where we need to improve at,” said Tuberville.”Overall I thought it was a good game, the effort was great.” While the Bearcats did outscore the Skyhawks 28-0 over the final three quarters it doesn’t hide the fact that they struggled throughout the first half against a team they were highly favored to beat. Next Saturday they face Purdue and if we have a repeat performance in the first half like they had against UT Martin they could be in some trouble. Only this time there might not be enough time for a second half comeback.


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