In the end this is a fitting end to a frustrating season for the Cincinnati Bearcats. UC made the vaunted Virginia Tech secondary look terrible. UC drove right down the field on the opening drive. Kiel hit Shaq Washington for 40 yards on the opening play of the game. On the next play Gunner marginally overthrew an open Chris Moore in the end zone. Two incompletions following led to a long field goal attempt from Andrew Gantz that was missed.
The Bearcats then proceeded to put yet another shockingly easy drive together before a poorly thrown ball into the endzone by Gunner Kiel led to an interception for Kendall Fuller. That was the one abjectly terrible decision that Gunner Kiel made on the day.
He got it together for yet another solid drive picking up yards in great big chunks before connecting with Chris Moore on another deep ball for a score. But the Bearcats were never able to maintain that. The play that perfectly sums up the Bearcats in this game, the final UC play of the first quarter. Gunner ran a zone read with a pass option. He had Shaq Washington behind his man with loads of space in front of him. All he needed was to put some velocity on the pass and let Shaq run after the catch. Knowing Shaq that was a touchdown. Instead Gunner went with a touch pass, a pass that was easily picked off by Virginia Tech's Chuck Clark. The Bearcats should have had 21 points after one quarter, but missed opportunities meant one solitary touchdown, They could have killed Virginia Tech off, instead they let them hang around. When the usual third quarter implosion commenced the game was all over.
Frustrating end to this season, but it is still a success because of the way that this team rallied from what could have been a death spiral. It could have very easily been 2010 all over again for the bearcats Bearcats. Instead they rallied to claim a share of the AAC crown. That rally is what gives me positive vibes about the 2015 season. Losing today to Virginia Tech doesn't change the fact that next year's offense will be loaded like none since 2009. Or that the defense showed an amazing ability to play successfully around their obvious short comings.
Recognizing those positives for what they are, doesn't mean that I am feeling whole and content with the Bearcats as I type this. But those among us who have already jumped off twitter bridge don't care about that right now. Those are the same people who are railing against the Tuberville era like it is the worst thing that has happened to this program. To anyone with a functioning frontal lobe that assumption is patently ridiculous. Only a person who has no idea who or what Dave Currey is could possibly think that Tommy Tuberville is the worst thing to befall the Bearcats.
The Bearcats problems in this 2014 season are contextual, they are not systemic. The failure of the loudest segment of the Bearcats fan base to tell the difference between contextual and systemic failures has driven me up a fucking wall so many times that I intend to audition for the role of Spider-Man the next time they reboot the franchise after Andrew Garfield retires to role to spend more time with Emma Stone now that her character is out of the franchise. I am getting really good at that walking into the corners of walls and ceiling thing.
UC really struggled to stop the run this year because they have no defensive tackles to speak of. That is a contextual problem, it's one that was inherited by the current coaching staff. They knew it was a problem last year, and moved to address it in recruiting. But it will be next year or the year after before that emphasis pays dividends. The Bearcats didn't have great depth at corner once Adrian Witty went down, accordingly they struggled against the pass as well. This defense had some serious limitations before the year even started, anyone who could. But that is the context of this team. UC has a lot of young talent that I think will be very good in a year or two. But they weren't in any position to help this team this year.
Tuberville made several allusions to the fact that they could have out an all red shirt team out there of guys who were just as talented as the starters. What they didn't have was experience, and as I have repeated ad nauseam in the past experience matters in college football. The bigger problem of the Bearcats two major defensive deficiencies was up front.
It is impossible to scheme your way around not having true, honest to goodness difference makers at the defensive tackle position. At a certain point teams are going to do exactly what Virginia Tech did. They will get big, bring in two tight ends and run power and inside zone until you stop it. The Bearcats simply couldn't stop it. That was true last year, it was true this year in the season opener, and it was true today. UC hid that fact pretty well for most of the year, but it wasn't at any point something that wasn't an issue. But that state of affairs is not a permanent, it can and will change.
Sorry for being positive on this, the most despondent of days, but I am not giving up on Tommy Tuberville. He is a good coach who knows how to build teams, and that is what he has had to do at Cincinnati. More so than most fans even know Tuberville has had to build a team from the remnants of Butch Jones subpar recruiting. It should have been telling to everyone when Tubs cut ties with a lot of the Bearcats recruits when he took the job in December of 2012. Tubs could have managed that action better, but he clearly didn't like what he saw. Next year will be the first time we get that first wave of Tuberville recruits along both lines of scrimmage, and that is something that will be important.
Make no mistake about it, that line of scrimmage has been the Bearcats issue in each of the last two seasons. The Bearcats inability to control the line of scrimmage has been a death knell to every attempt to punch above the Bearcats weight class. Tuberville will change that over time, he needs just that time to get it done. But before you go a crucify the head man and his staff do realize that this group has gone 18-8 in two years with a share of a conference crown without the roster being anywhere near where he, or his staff, want it to be.