Hayden Moore scoring his first of two rushing touchdowns. (photo by OhVarsity’s Matt Allaire)
The Bearcats in-conference woes continued with another dreadful showing against an AAC team on Saturday. In a storm-shortened game against Top 25 UCF, Cincinnati got boat-raced for 51 points. It wasn’t really that great. Here’s what happened:
- We got Mother Nature Mercy Ruled. A Mother Nature Mercy Rule is better than a regular mercy rule because it prevents the opposing team from scoring 75 points on you while still allowing you to preserve some shred of dignity. That storm stole a quarter of Bearcats football from me. While I’d like to have that back, it was probably a good thing.
- The Bearcats broke the running back touchdown catch drought. This was one of my favorite quirky UC football stats. With Gerrid Doaks’ catch late in the third quarter, he became the first Bearcats RB since Ralph David Abernathy in the 2012 Belk Bowl to record a touchdown reception. Not a single RB in the Tuberville tenure did it. The world was a different place the last time a Bearcats running back caught a touchdown. Django Unchained, The Hobbit, and Zero Dark Thirty were in theaters. Taylor Swift’s Red was the #1 album in America and both Rihanna’s “Diamonds” and The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” were in the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100. Bearcats basketball suffered their first loss of the 2012–13 season that afternoon behind inefficient shooting from Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker, although Cheikh Mbodj did manage 10 rebounds and three blocks. Anyway, our long national nightmare is over. Gerrid Doaks caught a touchdown pass.
- Hayden Moore — dual threat quarterback. I’m not sure what to attribute this to, but our best offensive option on Saturday night was letting Hayden run it. He finished with 75 yards on 13 carries to go with two rushing touchdowns. He also had a respectable night throwing the ball, finishing 23/40 with a touchdown and an interception. There’s certainly room for improvement, but he wasn’t the reason for the loss.
- Khalil Lewis continues to blossom. He finished the evening with seven catches for 89 yards, both of which land #2 on his career list. He’s currently #4 in the conference in catches with 31 grabs. Considering the up and down QB situation, this is all great.
- The defense has left us. Through three games, I was in here gushing about how quickly the defense had turned things around. They were stellar for the vast majority of the Michigan game and put a lid on Miami in Oxford. Since then, things have been disastrous. The 38-point fiasco against Marshall was sandwiched between 622 yards surrendered to Navy and 515 yards to UCF in just three quarters. For those counting at home, that’s 1,137 yards in seven quarters against AAC competition, or 162 yards per quarter. Going into AAC play, I was optimistic they’d compete because their strength would be their ability to slow down AAC offenses enough for Hayden Moore and Mike Boone to keep up. That has not been the case, and it may get uglier on Saturday as they travel to #18 USF.
- The secondary is getting crushed. They got torn up two weeks ago by Navy’s brutal ground game. Last week Marshall picked them apart through the air. On Saturday, McKenzie Milton got payback for Gunner Kiel’s incredible 2015 performance by blasting the Bearcats for 374 yards and five touchdowns on 16/19 passing. Again, this was just in three quarters. The secondary is a glaring weakness, and I have to wonder if things would be this bad if Alex Thomas were still around.
- Fan support is about to hit the skids. Attendance slipped to just 27,000 on Saturday and those fans were treated to a blowout — Cincinnati’s third consecutive poor performance at home this season. This team is 2–4, but all three games I’d consider to be praise-worthy occurred on the road. This spells disaster for a fan base that hasn’t yet learned to ride out the storm (no pun intended). To everyone who hates losing — please hang in there. This season has not been fun, but we’re coming out of a valley rather than heading into one. When the 2019 Bearcats win the AAC, we get to talk down on everyone who stayed home for the 2017 season.
The Bearcats are at the mid-way point of the regular season and sit at just 2–4. The good news is that things get easier once they fight past the daunting challenge this weekend’s game poses. The second half of the season is easier and we’re going to get to see how Fickell’s team plays with their backs against the wall, looking to finish the season on a hot streak and earn a bowl appearance. We’re still in a rebuilding process, but I’m betting most of the yucky stuff is behind us. Don’t miss out.