Friday night in Paul Brown Stadium will feature a battle of two familiar foes as USF (3-4, 2-1) goes back on the road to meet their old Big East rival Cincinnati (3-3, 1-1).
The Bulls surely have a tremendous amount of momentum to build off their 38-30 comeback victory Tulsa this past Saturday, the largest comeback in program history. As senior Elkino Watson mentioned at Tuesday’s press conference. “The momentum will definitely carry over. We got a taste of winning and want to keep it going. We’re going to give it our all these last five games.”
As Coach Willie Taggart observed, “There’s certainly a lot to learn from and keep building on from that win.” Despite the excitement, the Bulls can’t dwell on the win too much as they have to refocus and shift their attention to Cincinnati and their prolific passing attack.
Cincinnati, led by second year head coach Tommy Tuberville, are a team that’s been highly inconsistent throughout the first half of the season. After starting the season 2-0, the Bearcats quickly dropped games to Ohio State, Memphis, and Miami (FL) before bouncing back with a 41-3 victory over SMU this past week. Their inconsistencies could be attributed to their struggles on defense.
The Bearcats have been shredded, giving up 34.5 points and 524 yards per game, landing them 103rd and 123rd in the nation in those respective categories. Should Mike White and AAC Offensive Player of the Week Andre Davis establish a rhythm early on, it could be yet another long day for the Cincinnati defense.
Despite their struggles defensively, the passing attack for the Bearcats have been led by the excellent play of sophomore QB Gunner Kiel. The Notre Dame transfer has racked up 1,853 yards through the air and has compiled 19 TDs since taking over for the injured Munchie Legaux.
Kiel has spread the ball around this season, as five Bearcat receivers have at least 2 receiving TDs this season including deep threats Chris Moore and MeKale McKay. As Coach Taggart observed, “Cincy is a really talented team. They are similar to ECU from a pure athletic standpoint. It will be a big time challenge for our guys.”
As with every team from this point forward in the AAC, every game is do or die, with the winner staying alive in the conference race and the loser in a position of simply fighting for bowl eligibility at the end of the season. With a history of competitive games between the Bulls and Bearcats over the years, expect to see another one Friday night at 7 pm on ESPN2.