(Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Another year, another dud of an opener.
The red and black are back in Clifton, which means plenty of excitement and Week 1 overreactions. Regardless of your thoughts on Thursday’s less-than-convincing win, I can’t stress how important it is to pump the brakes and withold judgement until we see this team play another game or two.
For better or worse, this game is not an indication of who this team is. Given the fact that it’s the first game of the season, against a terrible opponent, with a new coaching staff, and with a much bigger game looming, there are a hundred reasons why this game won’t be like any of the rest.
That being said, it’s my job to pick it apart. Here we go:
- Football is back. It sounds simple, but tell me it’s not true. Given the lifeless end to last season and the unusual success of the offseason, this may have been the longest wait for college football I’ve ever experienced. Regardless of how things look on the field, I’m always happy to have Bearcat football back. It’s an automatic improvement to my quality of life.
- The Children of the Corn are a thing. Return of football means the return of some extremely dumb stuff I force upon all of you. This year it’s Children of the Corn. I’ve never seen the movie, but I know it’s supposed to be scary and it’s about children. You know what else is scary? Perry Young and Jaylyin Minor. And, while they aren’t technically children, their last names are Young and Minor,,, Folk’s.
- The Children of the Corn are good. Perry Young, who my compatriot Alex Apyan mentioned on our season preview podcast (not sure if that even made the final draft), exploded onto the scene Thursday night. The sophomore linebacker amassed 17 tackles, 10 solo tackles (!!!), three tackles for loss, and a pass deflection. That’s serious work for a kid getting his first heavy action. On the other side, team captain Jaylyin Minor was in on 10 tackles before leaving with an injury.
- Malik Clements seems good. His 18 tackles led the team. That’s a lot of tackles and I think he should keep doing that many tackles in each game.
- The new band director seemed to go over well. The halftime show, while not exactly my cup of tea, seemed to be popular. People were actually singing along. The band did some kind of wavy, clappy thing at the crowd at one point. I had no idea what was happening, but we’re pushing boundaries at UC now. I’m here for it.
- Hayden Moore really didn’t look too bad. Don’t get me wrong, he missed on a fair number of throws, but he still finished 17/28 for three touchdowns without an interception. I give him a positive grade. Say what you want, but if Mike Boone can carry a heavy load this year, Moore playing mistake-free football and throwing for 151 yards will get the job done more often than not.
- Hayden Moore spread the love. Thomas Geddis caught four passes and a touchdown. Khalil Lewis caught four passes and a touchdown. Tyler Cogswell caught three passes and a touchdown. Jerron Rollins, Devin Gray, and Mike Boone each caught a pair of passes. The Bearcats have some talent in the receiving corps, much of it very raw, and Moore seemed to do a good job of using all of it.
- I got to meet some folks. Brian “Most Handsome Blogger In The Game!” Fox came and said hey. What a gentleman. Be sure to follow him on Twitter. Also, after hours and hours of podcasting, I finally got to meet face-to-face with arguably the best backup long snapper in the history of Cincinnati football, Alex Apyan. Two outstanding fellas. Oh, also Matt Fletcher.
- The basketball team was there, and they were pumped. Nysier Brooks got some screen time in the stadium and did some flexing for the fans. By the time the camera located him again, he was shirtless. What a champ.
- Okay, what on earth were they doing? On the season preview podcast I predicted the coaching staff would work from a simplified playbook, but what we saw was largely disastrous. On the first drive, the offense tried four passes before stalling and being forced to punt. That type of unusual play calling was a trend, and I’m hoping it’s an effort to keep Michigan guessing. I would’ve liked to have seen at least a handful of aggressive plays, but instead we got nothing. It was a lot of very safe play calls with very mixed results. Anxious to see how that changes against a real opponent.
- Mike Boone was… okay. The senior got just 19 carries, and only hit 100 yards thanks to a 26-yard scamper. I don’t know if it was simplified blocking schemes or something more serious, but UC’s star weapon didn’t seem to look as overpowering as I’d hoped, and it seemed largely because of the offensive line.
- Time of possession and total yards were troubling. Time of possession is one of those stats that generally indicates which team controlled the game. It’s pretty telling that the Bearcats got their butt kicked here. On top of that, they entered halftime trailing in this category at about 21 minutes to 9 minutes. They finished the game with about 22 minutes of total possession. Yep. A team with one win in the last four seasons held the ball almost as much in the first half as Cincinnati did the entire game. Not good. The yardage is a bit less important, and obviously you can win a game without out-gaining your opponent. Then again, it would’ve been reassuring to see this new-look offense rack up 250 yards on such a terrible team. They couldn’t.
- The game introduction was a comedy of errors. Per usual, the band played the alma mater. However, they switched the tempo to 50% and faced away from the student section. You can’t change up the music *and* face in such a way that the only people in the stadium who are trying to sing along and do the hand motions can’t hear you. It felt like an SNL skit. Following that, the new intro video started without… video. We heard only music before the video joined halfway through. Before the video ended, the team ran onto the field. The timing was off, and that was no more apparent than during the national anthem. The skydivers landed on the field *during* the Star Spangled Banner. Couple that distraction with the fact that they were practically skimming the heads of the tuba players on their descent and nobody was singing our great nation’s anthem. Shortly thereafter, Bearcat legend Isaiah Pead was on hand to lead the student section in Down The Drive, and his microphone wasn’t working for a few moments. None of this is really a huge deal. It’s the first game of the season for everyone, not just the players. The scoreboard is a new thing to consider, too. It just kinda took the air out of the hype that the first introduction of the season can bring.
- Attendance wasn’t great. AD Mike Bohn said they were looking at 35,000 tickets sold, and the final tally was just short of 31k. I hauled tail from Columbus after work, so I understand how much 7PM weeknight games suck, especially against a terrible FCS team. That being said, it would’ve been cool to see the stadium more crowded.
- Khalil Lewis is dropping touchdowns. He botched one that hit him in the chest on a slant route and failed to reel in a more difficult catch on an out route. Everything I’ve heard from those who have seen Lewis in camp says this is highly uncharacteristic, so I’m not worried. It’s a fluke.
- Andrew Gantz struggled. He missed a short field goal (that a student successfully kicked less than three minutes later) and missed a PAT off the upright. Again, this seems kinda uncharacteristic. We’ve seen in the past what Gantz can do, and you have to remember he missed nearly all of last season with an injury. This was his first game action in a year. Mistakes happen. Better now than against a real opponent.
- Nick Bauer and Matt Fletcher left the game early. Sad!
Be sure to listen to Episode #5 of the OhVarsity! Podcast which features a great interview with Zach Edwards and a comprehensive season preview. Episode #6 is coming soon and will recap the Austin Peay game and look ahead to Michigan.