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Gunner Kiel Sets FBS Record In Impressive Debut

For three years Gunner Kiel has been, in the words of Tommy Tuberville, a myth. That is a bit harsh, but it's not entirely wrong either. Before tonight Gunner had not so much as played in a game or thrown a pass in anger as a college player. Three years after his last game, the Army All America Game, Kiel came out and put on a show.

Andy Lyons

How's that for a debut?

Kiel was basically flawless in the first half. He went deep to Mekale McKay on the first play from scrimmage and, after a misfire on the next play, he once again found McKay for a 17 yard score. What followed was more of the same for the next two quarters as the Bearcats raced out to a 34-0 lead. That was good, that showed that the potential of this offense is high. The Rockets showed little resistance in the secondary in the first half, and Kiel did what he should have done.

What was really impressive about Gunner's debut was what happened in the second half. The Rockets came out like a team possessed and the Bearcats came out flat. Here are the drive stats for that third quarter.

Plays Yards 1st Downs Result
3 -5 0 Punt
3 2 0 Punt
3 16 0* Punt

*There was a first down on a Rockets pass interference on Mekale McKay, but that is technically not a play

It was at this point that the Bearcat fans began to hit the panic button. While the Bearcats offense staggered through its mini meltdown the Rockets hit the a heretofore undiscovered gear. They ripped off four straight scoring drives going touchdown, touchdown, field goal, field goal to cut the lead to 41-34. What happened next is why I am really excited about Gunner Kiel.

The Bearcats are now a truly uptempo team in a way that they haven't been in previous years. That change is for the best, but there is a downside that comes with it. Because there is a rhythm that develops playing in a style like that, and when it goes it can be very hard to get that back. The poster child for that phenomenon is the Oregon-Stanford match ups of recent years, where the Cardinal have taken the Ducks completely out of their comfort zone by winning on first down and preventing the pace from ever becoming a factor.

Tonight the Bearcats were briefly in danger of experiencing a similar snowball effect in that third quarter. When Gunner went back to the locker room to receive fluids for cramps following the Bearcats last drive in the third quarter I feared the worst. That the meltdown would continue and the momentum would be lost.

Instead Gunner came straight from the locker room and entered the game for the first drive of the fourth quarter. Coming fresh from the locker room without so much as a warm up toss Gunne proceeded to once again unleash hell.

Plays Yards First Downs Results
8 75 4 Touchdown
6 27 1 Field Goal
8 69 2 Touchdown

In the grand scheme of things that first drive is one that will probably be forgotten. But Gunner stepped up in a tough spot and delivered, a situation in which everything was breaking against the Bearcats. It is very easy for an offense like UC's to breakdown in that kind of situation. That didn't happen because Gunner delivered with unexpected poise for a first time college starter. Its just one game against a really, really bad defense, but Gunner Kiel could be a really special player for the Bearcats, and that drive in the fourth quarter was the first real indication that he could rally an offense, a team when everything is tipping against them.

Here is to many more like them Gunner