(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
The string ran out on the Bearcats shot at a bowl game on Friday night, clinching what will be back-to-back losing seasons in Clifton for the first time in the 21st century. It’s not fun. Rebuilding is not fun. Losing is not fun.
The Bearcats’ new goal should be to improve on last year’s 4–8 record by winning their final two games (at ECU and at home against UConn). For now, they’ll have to process what happened on a freezing cold night at Nippert.
- Hayden Moore looked pretty good, again. I’ve definitely been critical of Hayden during his career at Cincinnati, but I think the overall fan base’s attitude towards him as spiraled out of control. When the team is struggling, it’s easy to point at a QB who hasn’t been fantastic and has tended to save his mistakes for the worst possible times. That being said, I think he’s played well over the past few games, even including the SMU debacle. He coughed up a turnover on a fumble last night, but he also threw for two touchdowns and ran well, finishing as the team’s leading rusher with 11 carries for 80 yards. We know what Hayden Moore can do at this point, and it feels like he’s starting to settle into that. He’s not going to throw for 400 yards or rack up touchdowns, but he’s becoming astute at making things happen, especially in spots where UC needs it. For the second straight game at Nippert, he threw a long touchdown on fourth down. Those kinds of plays matter and speak to his abilities as a quarterback more than people give him credit for. Am I saying he’s been great? No. I’m just saying he’s certainly not the reason for Cincinnati’s woes.
- Mike Boone is back? Boone has really struggled this season, especially since returning from his September injury. Friday night was the best he’s looked. His vision was working and so was his ability to shed tackles. He only got nine carries, but he turned that into 59 yards and scored his prettiest touchdown in a while on a scamper in the second half. Boone has done a lot for this team in his tenure in Clifton, and I’m happy to see him playing well as it winds to a close.
- The receivers continue to plug away. Khalil Lewis had another good performance with five catches for 84 yards. Devin Gray had three catches for 50 yards and Thomas Geddis added two catches for 40 yards and a nice touchdown grab on a fourth down play. After lamenting the putrid chemistry between QB and receivers early this year, they seem to be on the same page recently. It’s good to see.
- Jaylyin Minor is a force. 16 more tackles for that kid. I’m going to miss him when he graduates.
- Jarrell White is taking his window of opportunity as a starter and running with it. The true freshman had 10 more tackles on Friday which should make even the biggest skeptics optimistic about the kids that Fickell is bringing in.
- The bowl hopes are dead. I don’t care that it’s a rebuild, that sucks. Now that we’ve seen this team and their schedule, it’s tough to expect anything different, but every college football season that ends in November feels bad.
- Penalties. I’m sick of talking about penalties. We shouldn’t be having these issues and I’m hoping they don’t continue past this year.
- That game was cold. When I got back to my car, the thermometer read 27 degrees and I scoffed at that number. It felt so much colder, especially considering the frequent breezes swirling around the empty bleachers at Nippert. What a bleak, depressing night in Clifton.
I said it following the SMU game and I’ll bring it up again: I’m drinking in every ounce of how much this year has sucked. I believe the Bearcats are moving in the right direction, albeit slowly, and I want to appreciate their return to glory as much as possible when it comes. The way I figure it, the best way to maximize that future appreciation is by transfixing myself to this clunker of a season. See you next week.