UC’s last loss to an FCS team, vs Troy State on 9/11/99, in front of 16,091 fans. [Ernest Coleman/Enquirer]
Never whine after a win. It can always be worse.
Here’s the thing: I understand that Thursday’s 28–7 win over FCS UT-Martin wasn't ideal. I understand that a weeknight game against an FCS team with the Bengals playing down the road meant attendance was the worst it’s been in a few years. I understand that the Bearcats allowed a long touchdown drive to start the game and looked sluggish through the first half, heading back to the locker room trailing 7–6. I understand they didn’t exactly slam the door in the second half, scoring 22 unanswered points but allowing many doubts to linger. I understand.
That said, watching (some) Bearcats fans melt down on Twitter Saturday afternoon as Houston (a very good team) blew the doors off of Oklahoma (another very good team) was frustrating. Houston has not beaten the Bearcats in 2016. Houston has not accepted a Big 12 invitation, leaving UC in the dust. Houston got a great win, we should be really jealous, and we should be itching to play a Top 10 team at Nippert Stadium in two weeks.
I’m not going to turn into the guy that calls people out, telling them how to be a fan or how to feel about their team. However, I feel that we need to put the past few days into perspective. Stick with me here, I’m going to try to make you feel better.
The Bearcats did not lose on Thursday. They won fairly decisively, and currently are 1–0 with many positives to look at. After the first drive, the defense looked surprisingly stout, allowing 248 yards, forcing three turnovers and a turnover-on-downs, and holding UT-Martin to zero points. (Last year, the Bearcats had three turnovers after three games.) Tion Green finished with one of the better games of his career after starting with a fumble, and looked reinvigorated in the new offense. Veteran Nate Cole impressed with six grabs for 66 yards and a touchdown. Newcomer Devin Gray made a splash with five catches for 111 yards. Avery Johnson had just two catches for 38 yards, but had an impressive TD called back after he couldn’t quite tiptoe the line.
The offense as a whole was far from pretty, but certain growing pains are to be expected. You can’t judge a new offensive system after a single game. The Eddie Gran era opened at UC with a 42–7 flogging of Purdue, and look how that ended. Now he’s at Kentucky, where his offense fell completely stagnant in the second half, helping to cost them a football game.
Speaking of Kentucky, here are the teams I’m glad I’m not a fan of after Week 1 of the college football season:
- Kentucky, who lost to Southern Miss after their new coordinator got outscored by their old coordinator 34–0 to close the game.
- Northwestern, who lost to Western Michigan. PJ Fleck has turned the Broncos into a pretty scary MAC team, but a Big Ten team should not lose to a MAC team.
- Mississippi State, who lost to South Alabama by clanging a 28-yard field goal off the upright in the final minute.
- Virginia, who got truly blown out by Richmond, an FCS school they share a state with.
- Washington State, who lost to Eastern Washington, an FCS school they share a state with.
- Iowa State, who lost to Northern Iowa, an FCS school they share a state with. They committed three turnovers in the final six minutes of the game, which was only broadcast on Cyclones.tv
- Kansas, who won their first football game in 665 days when they beat Rhode Island, an FCS team whose lone 2015 win was Delaware. This win was such an extraordinary event that the KU students stormed the field, much to the chagrin of the PA announcer.
- UCF, who won their first football game in 639 days when they beat FCS South Carolina State.
- Tulane, who allowed just seven points to ACC bottom-feeder Wake Forest, bust lost because they only scored three.
- Temple, who got canned by Army, a team who won two games in 2015, one of which was against something called “Bucknell.”
These are all programs that are where UC is trying to get (the Power 5) or where UC is trying to leave (the AAC). They all had miserable opening weeks. The Bearcats didn’t thrill me on Thursday, but let’s remember that it can always be worse. The Bearcats have been there. One rocky win isn’t a sign that we’re headed back.
The Bearcats are undefeated. Their first road game is very winnable, and will be filled with Bearcats fans. A Top 10 team has a date with Blackout Nippert in less than two weeks. UC is still a Big 12 expansion favorite. Cheer up. Let’s beat Purdue.