In the most dominant defensive performance of the season (on the road against the 25th team in the nation), the Cincinnati Bearcats found a way to lose. The defense was far from perfect, but in the first half they managed to hold Houston to only 14 points to match 14 of their own. Though they gave up over 400 yards in the game, the Bearcats' defense managed to force multiple turnovers and was able to make big plays on defense, especially in the red zone. It was looking like it was going to be an enjoyable, competitive game for both the Bearcats and the Cougars, but ultimately poor decision-making led the Bearcats down the lonely path of defeat.
Statistics Can Lie
If one were to only look at the box score, many fans and analysts would say that Gunner Kiel outplayed his competitor (Greg Ward Jr.) this week; however Kiel's 500-plus yards passing with four touchdowns doesn't tell the whole story. It doesn't tell the story about his costly decision-making on the deadly pick-six in the third quarter or his inability to get rid of the football when pressured. Despite having a prolific day slinging the ball through the air, Kiel did not play a complete game Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, Greg Ward Jr. was able to dominate the game utilizing both his legs and his arm. Having accounted for almost 300 yards of total offense and two touchdowns, Ward Jr. was impressive and, most of all, he was capable of leading his team to an important victory in conference play.
The Play That Changed Everything
A botched false start penalty by the referees led to four penalties against the Bearcats and a Cougar touchdown. What would have been a red zone stop from the one yard line ended up as seven points and, to make things worse, the Bearcats then threw a pick six on the next drive and managed to take a safety following that. Without shooting themselves in the foot with constant mistakes such as the three turnovers, 11 penalties, and a safety, the Bearcats could have very easily left Houston as winners and knocked off the Cougars from the ranks of the unbeaten. Once again, Cincinnati fans are left to wonder what could, would, and should have been.
The Mind of a Coach
Sitting at 5-4 on the season, despite having a roster thick with talent, it is hard to imagine that we won't start to hear head coach Tommy Tuberville's name come up for potential coaching jobs across the country. To put it simply, Tuberville is too good of a coach to stick around at Cincinnati without any incentives. The question for many fans and supporters is whether or not he would have an interest in coaching any of those teams. With another poor performance on the resume and him becoming visibly impatient with declining consistency, it would not be surprising to see Tuberville make a dash for a larger market yet, as easy as it is to imagine him leaving, it is just as easy to picture him staying in Cincinnati. Seeing how the season finishes will paint the full picture, but it looks like Coach Tuberville will be staying for now.