(UC/Joseph Fuqua II)
In the 2015 edition of the Battle for the Victory Bell, redshirt freshman Hayden Moore committed four turnovers before collecting himself and driving the Bearcats down the field to victory in the fourth quarter. In the 2016 edition, redshirt freshman Ross Trail committed three turnovers before collecting himself and driving the Bearcats down the field to victory in the fourth quarter.
It was a maddening game for a bevy of reasons, but we pulled it out and there are a handful of things I’m pleased with. Here are the ups and downs:
- We won. Never whine after a win.
- That’s 11 straight against Miami. Like it or not, they’re a rival. I’ll take a rivalry win over a rivalry loss. Despite the fact that we’ve underwhelmed against the RedHawks for four straight seasons, I feel like the Battle for the Bell has never been more lopsided. Two straight years we’ve begged for Miami to beat us, and they have refused. The Bearcats at most frustrating are still better than Miami, it would appear.
- The uniforms are great. Red and black is the best color combo in sports, and this proves it.
- The tunnel (pictured above) is back! The combo of smoke and tunnel seems like the winning formula. I hope this continues.
- Ross Trail performed when he had to. With the score tied, he went 4–for-4 as part of a 12-play drive spanning 5:28 that ended with a Tion Green touchdown to win the game for the Bearcats. He made a handful of mistakes, but that’s expected of a freshman in his first start. All that matters is the win, and he brought it home. Plus, from a percentage standpoint, 25-for-38 is a good look for any quarterback, especially a freshman.
- The running backs returned to form after an abysmal showing against Houston. Tion Green and Mike Boone combined for 157 yards on 37 carries with a pair of touchdowns. Nothing flashy, but they moved the chains and scored some points. I’ll take it.
- The defensive front looked great. We all went nuts about the lack of pressure early this season, but on Saturday they pinned their ears back and it paid off. Miami running backs combined for just 74 yards at 3.5 yards per carry. Miami QB Billy Bahl was sacked five times, fumbled once, and threw a critical interception in the red zone. This year’s defense is “bend, don’t break” and I love it. They’re getting the job done every week.
- Saturday snapped my 24-game Nippert attendance streak, dating back to the beginning of the 2011 season. It felt downright disgusting to watch a game at Nippert on television.
- The announced attendance––38,112––is a bit of a letdown for this game, and the figure seems to be a bit of an exaggeration if I’m being honest. It wasn’t an embarrassing crowd by any means, but it was nothing special by Victory Bell standards. (A third consecutive student section sellout was nice though.)
- I don’t understand the QB situation. Not even a little bit. Tuberville essentially named Hayden Moore the starter on Tuesday, but cautioned that he’d make a switch if there were turnover issues. By Saturday, Moore was apparently too hurt to even dress. Rather than start veteran Gunner Kiel, Tuberville gave the ball to Ross Trail, a freshman whose career stats are 1-for-2 for two yards and an interception (which was returned for a touchdown). After announcing before the game that Kiel could see playing time alongside Trail, Tuberville declined to make a QB change, even with the Bearcats losing and Trail struggling to avoid freshman mistakes. At this point, I’m reluctant to believe that Gunner will ever throw another pass for the Bearcats. As Neal Slaton pointed out, if he’s not better than a mistake-ridden freshman, why is he even on the team?
- Bryce Jenkinson is out for the year. This sucks, because I love Bryce Jenkinson.
- Lastly, as Bearcats Sports Radio points out, the fanbase is extremely restless. I’m typically above the restlessness, and even I’m feeling it. We’re four games into the season and a 5–7 finish with a Big 12 snub seems as likely as a 10-win season with a Big 12 invite. Warranted or not, it feels like the whole program is up in the air, and that feeling is really not fun. I have no idea where we’ll be in three months, and that’s scary.
Despite the rocky start to the season, the Bearcats are 3–1 with a chance to make a name for themselves against one of the conference’s better teams next weekend at Nippert. I think there are signs this team can be really good, and next week will be an opportunity for them to prove it.