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Bearcats Run Over Tulane 38 to 14

Gunner Kiel got the start, threw a pick and Munchie went the distance as the Bearcats dispatched Tulane with ease. There was the requisite third quarter mini hiccup, but the Bearcats weathered that and proceeded to dominate the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

This was a game that the Bearcats needed to survive more so than make a statement in. UC is obviously ailing in the health department, lots of injuries to the running backs and Gunner Kiel has had his issues. Given all that this was a survive and advance game if ever there was one. The Bearcats did just that.

They were efficient, not something you can usually say about a team that turns the ball over three times,* but that was the Bearcats in a nutshell. They were pretty balanced while the game was in doubt and ended up at 35 rushes, 26 passes. In the end UC averaged 7.9 yards per play, converted 6 of 12 on third downs (1 of 1 on fourth downs) and was basically flawless in the red zone. Down to down consistency was a huge issue for this Bearcats offense (and defense for that matter) early in the year. They are slowly and steadily improving in that regard.

* one of those was a Anthony McClung esque terrible decision from Shaq Washington on a botched punt return.

The Bearcats have two main questions to ponder as they head into the last bye week of the season, one a macro the other more specific . Can Gunner Kiel get healthy enough to finish the rest of the season. That is no small thing, because he has not played a full game since the Bearcats matched up with the Hurricanes in south beach. It goes without saying that the Bearcats need Gunner as close to 100 percent as possible, and able to finish the game. Sorry Gunner, but you need to be packed in ice and bubble wrap for the next 12 days.

The other question is whether the Bearcats improvements on defense, and they have undoubtedly improved, will be scaleable against better offenses. The best offense left on the schedule is the Pirates of ECU. UC doesn't need to be perfect on defense to beat the Pirates,* they just need to be able to string together a couple of timely stops. A healthy Gunner Kiel with this newly functional running game should be able to keep pace with the Pirates, at least in theory.

* Provided the answer to question one is a yes.

All in all this isn't exactly a terrible place for this team to be heading into the final bye given the way the season started.