The Rockets rolled up 563 yards of offense on their own. That is an alarming total to be sure, but I don't think it is an indication of the quality of the Bearcats defense. No one game can be that, and certainly not the first game. The alarmists would have you believe that the Bearcats performance is an indication that every game this season will be a shootout, just like 2009. That could very well be where we are headed, but it is too early to seize on that as a new fact of life.
Generally those people are missing two key points. One is that Toledo is a really, really good offense. They are balanced, they can run the football behind a great offensive line. In fact that Rockets probably have the best offensive front the Bearcats will face all year. Kareem Hunt is a really good back, and his running mate Marc Remy isn't a slouch. Alonzo Russell is a future NFL receiver, Logan Woodside is a pretty good quarterback. That is a very good, very sound offense.
The other point is that the Bearcats hadn't played a down of live football this year. That is not an excuse, merely a relevant factor. It's not at all surprising to me that the defense looked a step slow off the ball, particularly along the defensive line. It took the defensive line about three quarters to get up to speed. But once they were there the Rockets really struggled to find traction. In three fourth quarter drives Toledo ran 16 plays for 34 yards (2.1 per play) with zero points*. If the Bearcats can get the defense they got in friday's fourth quarter they will be a very tough team to beat. The problem is that in the other three quarters they gave up over 500 yards and 31 points.
*Toledo did get a field goal on a drive that took place for the most part in the third quarter, it was the field goal that came in the fourth.
The most glaring mistakes were the two that turned Alonzo Russell loose in the Bearcats secondary for long scores. WIthout those two busts Toledo would have been held to a more respectable 471 yards and a slightly more respectable 5.9 yards per play. But that's not how this game works, so lets look at what went wrong.
When I do these posts I tend to overcomplicate simple issues. This is a perfect case in point. There are a lot of little things that go wrong for the Bearcats on this play. Solomon Tentman and Eric Wilson bit hard on the play fake because it's first and 10, and the Bearcats were getting gashed on the ground. It was 1st and 10, and that is a running look for Toledo. So everyone was keyed on the run, including the secondary. Everyone had an eye in the backfield on that play, including Mike Tyson, the man who is ultimately culpable for this mistake.
In his defense he was put in a no win situation. Solomon didn't have enough depth to cover the slot receiver between the hashes so Tyson had to respond to that route. But his biggest mistake was the cardinal rule of defensive back play, stay deep as the deepest. The Bearcats are in cover two so that entire half of the field is Tyson's to cover, and he simply lost track of Alonzo Russell, the best receiver the Rockets have. Logan Woodside throws him to a stop and he walks in for a score. All thanks to a momentary lapse of concentration.
This one is simpler, Howard Wilder just gets beat by Russell off the line, and badly. The Bearcats are in what looks like cover 4, or quarters. It is exactly what it sounds like, each DB gets a quarter of the field to call their own. Against vertical routes from the outside receiver there is no zoning, it looks exactly like man.
On this play Wilder walks up on Russell as if to jam him at the line of scrimmage. His stance and alignment signal man to Logan Woodside, but at the snap Zach Edwards and Andre Jones move to their landmarks on the hash. That means that he has one on one with Russell and Wilder and that is his second read. Unknown to him as he looked off, Russell wasted Wilder with an inside release and had him by three yards. Easy read, easy throw, easy touchdown.
Many of the Bearcats biggest issues from last Friday stemmed from the lack of playing. The sluggish start, the lack of physicality up front and the communications breakdowns. As the Bearcats keep playing those things will naturally start to clean up. I am still bullish on this Bearcat defense, but they have to show major growth this week against Miami. Miami is not in the same stratosphere as the Toledo offense, so the table is set for the Bearcats defense to dominate. If they fail to so on Saturday night it might be cause for concern.